E-Business and Privacy: Total Strangers or Marriage Made in Heaven? (An Abstract)

By: Sonny Zulhuda *

The information economy derives its name from the fact that information has become a powerful source of wealth for today’s corporations. Understandably there comes the rising demand to ensure this promised wealth is not unnecessarily missed. For this, today’s corporate world witnesses a great evolution in terms of the way they run the business by adopting the advantage of information and communications technologies (ICT). These tools have been increasingly exploited in order to secure the wealth as promised by the information age.

The controversial part that pursues, however, centers at the clash of demands from the two different ends of the business: corporations and consumers. In one hand, corporations wish to secure as many informational assets as possible that include consumers’ personal information. On the other hand, consumers have now demanded for higher protection on their privacy right including right to control the flow and use of their own personal information. Because of this apparent controversy, in some part of the world, businesses are forced to make some adjustments on their dealing with personal data and information. This appears to be very crucial for them in order to win the consumers’ confidence.

The objective of this paper is to highlight the issue of privacy and personal data protection in the current setting of electronic business. Even though this is a global and trans-border issue, the paper seeks to limit its scope into the position in Asia Pacific region. It therefore seeks to identify legal regimes in countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and other countries in the region that may have initiated certain protection on personal data. Along this line, relevant European Directive will also be touched due to its far-reaching impact on regional legal development.

Clear understanding of these issues will determine the next questions to be resolved in this paper: can businesses survive and significantly grow with the increasing demand to restrict the use and flow of personal information? How to reach the synergy between the two with the help of existing legal regimes? Or is it just impossible for the two to synergize and reconcile? The thesis of this paper is that the two should preserve and enhance each other by adopting business best practices that is inline with the requirements of law and consumers alike.

* This paper abstract was prepared for the 3rd World Congress of International Society of Business, Economics and Ethics (ISBEE), 14-17 July 2004, Melbourne, Australia, jointly with Prof. Abu Bakar Munir.

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