From Privacy Suit to EU GDPR: Data Protection Updates from Malaysia – As reported in the Borneo Post

By: Sonny Zulhuda

The beginning of the year saw my interview with the Malaysian daily the Borneo Post that was published on 1st January 2019. This interview was initiated by my colleagues from the consultancy firm Straits Interactive. The report was entitled “Malaysians increasingly aware of risks with data breach.” It can be found in this link.

The article started to to note that Malaysians now are more aware about the risks associated with breaches of their personal data. In fact, we in Malaysia have seen in the past five years, that there is a sharp increase in data privacy civil suits in the local Malaysian courts.

Among the points I highlighted in the interview are as follows:

What are the costs of data breaches?

  • The cost of data breaches can be seen in many areas. In terms of legal liabilities, companies in breach of the Malaysian PDP Act 2010 can be fined up to RM500,000 – for offences such as unlawful sale or unlawful collection of personal data, as well as collection of data without the required certificate of registration.
  • And when a data breach occurs, costs can also be incurred through technical repairs and loss of reputation. Business can also suffer because of bad publicity.
  • Civil suits can also be brought against companies, and these can cost businesses a lot of money. Malaysians are becoming increasingly more aware of the risks associated with breaches of their personal data, and we have seen a sharp increase in data privacy civil suits in the local Malaysian courts in the past five years.

Are we prepared? Here is what I said:

  • Unlike companies in the US and Europe, many companies in the Asean have yet to reach an acceptable level of preparedness. Data protection does not tend to be a part of the business culture, however some industries (banking and finance) are more prepared due to legislation and legal requirements.
  • To bolster the understanding and preparedness of other industries, we need more public awareness, training, and certified professionals in the field of data protection.

What are among the common concerns?

  • One major concern in Malaysia is how much our MyKad (ID cards) details are easily and unnecessarily exposed. Many people needlessly impose the collection or retention of MyKad details before people start business communication or interactions, enter premises, or participate in events. Unfortunately, lots of people are happy to submit these details and this gives the impression that these practices are approved and not an issue.
  • Another problem is direct marketing, as well as unsolicited commercial calls, emails and text messages. While it’s clear individuals have the right to refuse direct marketing, it still regularly happens.

What has been prepared?

  • I highlighted that leading consultant like Straits Interactive plays the role to champion a public-private partnership by establishing alliance with academia, industries and the government. This partnership will ensure Malaysia as a nation moves together and responds to data privacy issues with a common understanding and comprehensive programmes.

Does the European Union GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations) have anything to do with the Malaysians?

  • With the passing and enforcement of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018, Malaysia needs to gear up for these stronger laws and better enforcement.
  • The GDPR applies to companies who also interact with European citizens, and this requires short-term training programmes and certifications in the field of data protection.
  • A collaboration at the regional level is also timely and necessary. We are heading towards that.

Credit on this Interview to the Straits Interactive and the Borneo Post.

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Data Breach a Test to Our Digital Resilience

By: Sonny Zulhuda
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Malaysian public has recently been perturbed by a series of personal data breach one after another. While the investigation is taking place, one can only expect that what has surfaced may only be a tip of an iceberg.
As the country embraces digital economy and aims at a cashless society by 2020, this data security crisis becomes a part of the equation. More digitised information and more synchronised data mean a bigger risk of data breach calamities. As a country, there is no backing out from this equation even though that means we have to learn it hard.
As a consequence, a data breach is not a matter of ‘whether’ but is a matter of ‘when’ it will happen. This requires us to adopt a risk management approach. Failure of managing the risks can be increasingly costly. The problem is, it is too often when we realise there is a data, it may be already too late. The alleged leak and illegal sale of Malaysian telecommunications data are said to have happened years ago. By now, we are already five years too late!
Time is of the essence here. As we start to learn about the breaches that took place, swift actions are warranted. There are few points to consider by all the stakeholders.
Firstly, data users can do the least by keeping the public informed about what is going on.
Even though our PDP law does not oblige data users to notify data subjects about any breach, this is warranted for transparency and trust preservation, and hence their business continuity plan.
Secondly, we should treat this as an issue of national security.
Not only because massive data of the majority of the public is affected, but also because those data come from the telecommunications and financial industries which are deemed among the ten critical national information infrastructures (CNII) as outlined by the Malaysian National Cyber Security Policy (NCSP) 2006. So, data security under this CNII must be given utmost priority. Both public and private sectors must cooperate in dealing with the crises.
Thirdly, it is time to test the mechanism of our law.
These incidents of a personal data breach either maliciously or negligently occurred, will need to be tested against the Personal Data Protection principles enshrined in the Act. The authority needs to speed up the activation of the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) 2010 after some “day-nap”. Other agencies need to help in accordance with the statutory powers granted to each of them.

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The year 2017 is notably the beginning of some successful prosecutions under the Act, which is a crucial milestone in itself. On a positive note, we should take this crisis as an opportunity to also prove our legal mechanism. 

On top of that, what we are facing now is something bigger: it is testing our resilience as a nation. The challenge is more than a damage control: it is to deal efficiently with the massive data crisis like what is happening now.

This is not a one-off duty as data security is a process rather than a result. As Vince Lombardi was once famously quoted, it is not so much about how we fall down, but rather on how to raise back. And by “we” I mentioned in this last paragraph, it is you and me and every one of us the individuals to whom the personal data actually belong to.

“Can my lecturer access my personal information?” – And Other Issues of Data Protection at the Higher Learning Institutions 

By: Sonny Zulhuda 

In the past week alone, I spoke about the personal data protection law at two Malaysian public universities; Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (UniSZA) Kuala Terengganu and Universiti Malaysia Pahang (UMP) Pekan. While the former was an internal programme, the latter talk was attended by other public universities’representatives who were members of Majlis Tatatertib dan Disiplin Universiti-universiti Awam Malaysia (MATDUM).

In this post, I would like to note some discussions we had on the implementation of the Personal Data Protection Act 2010 at the University environment.

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The education industry is indeed among those where personal information is highly processed. The data subjects include students (prospective, actual and graduates), university’s employees, as well as any individuals involved in the data processing.

Continue reading

PDP Law Compliance for Educational Institution

By: Sonny Zulhuda

Educational institutions -universities, colleges, schools, etc.- are among those who are regulated by the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) 2010. The data subjects include: students (obviously the main object here), staffs or employees, vendors, alumni, sponsors, as well as those applicants who have yet join the universities/schools.

The amount of personal data are potentially bulky: personal details, medical records, financial and scholarship records, academic records, student societies records, disciplinary records and even post-study information about the students. Given this situation, people who deal with students’ data in the educational institutions would need to ensure their handling of personal data is in line with the demands of the Act.

In introducing the subject matter to the community in the University, I will be speaking in this following workshop, together with my friend Noriswadi Ismail from Quotient Consulting Sdn Bhd and PDP Academy LLP, and Dr. Federico Feretti from Brunel Law School, London, UK.

Banner PDP Workshop AIKOL 28052014 (4)

Consumers to take control of their Personal Data

My Intro: The following passages were published by the Star in their Sunday Edition (6th January 2013) at pp 23-24. The article is about what Malaysian consumers should know and do in relation to their personal data. It is based on another interview the journalist had with me. For the benefit of the readers, I reproduce some parts of the article in this page. Should you want to read it in full, check the newspaper’s page HERE.

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“Consumers, take control of your personal data”

The Personal Data Protection Act 2010 has come into force, but the public will have to do their part to make it effective.

Credit: The Star Online

Credit: The Star Online

EAGER to win the grand prize, Maria (not her real name) did not hesitate to “drop” her name card at the door for a lucky draw at a company dinner. Weeks later, she found herself inundated with phone calls and text messages offering different services and products.

It is an accepted practice in Malaysia to leave our call cards or personal information at the registration counter of public events. But have you ever wondered what your personal data will be used for later? Or how it will be stored?

This has become so common here that no one thinks twice about the risks and implications, says personal data protection law expert Dr Sonny Zulhuda.

Under the newly enforced Personal Data Protection Act 2010 (PDPA), however, this practice will have to be reviewed, particularly for business entities that use these occasions as an opportunity to build their network of potential customers.

Continue reading

What You Need to Know about the PDPA

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My Intro: The following article, appeared in The Star newspaper, is about public awareness on the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) 2010 (Act 709). The journalist had compiled the report out of few resources, including the PDP Department and myself (through series of interaction). It is indicated at the bottom of the article itself. I reproduce the article in this page for the benefit of more readers.

Cheers! Sonny Zulhuda

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“What You Need to Know about the PDPA”

(Reproduced from The Star Online, published on Sunday, 30/12/2012)

PDPA 2010A freelance journalist from Penang was already coping with the pain from a hemorrhoids surgery when she had to endure another hurtful experience – she discovered that her surgeon had taken photographs of her private parts without her consent when she was under.

When she confronted him, she was told that it was “normal procedure” and a common practice for “medical purposes”. Outraged that her privacy had been violated, she sued the doctor.

This is one of the many cases of personal data breaches and privacy violations in the country. Hence, the enforcement of the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) this New Year is much lauded. In fact, it is long awaited – for some, over a decade long.

However, while pictures of one’s private parts may constitute as personal data, the aggrieved patient would not be able to take action under the Act – our PDPA only regulates commercial transactions. (The freelance journalist, however, won RM25,000 in damages in her civil court case.)

Here are some of the facts you need to know about the PDPA: Continue reading

Personal Data Protection Act 2010 will be Enforced from 01.01.2013 — Or so it was said…

By Sonny Zulhuda

That is it. No more waiting or being complacent.

The Minister of Information, Communications and Culture  of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Rais Yatim was reported today (23 Oct 2012) as saying that the crucial Act will be enforced beginning of the year 2013 — that is less than two months from now. The report from The Sun Daily can be viewed here.

Credit: The Sun Daily (c) 2012

Credit: The Sun Daily (c) 2012

And when it is implemented, as prescribed by the Act itself, data users will have three months to prepare to comply with the rules and regulations on personal data that they collect, process or otherwise store. In total, companies as well as individual data users will only have five months to prepare themselves before the Data Protection Commissioner can knock their doors if he wishes to inspect their personal data system and the level of compliance.

Also, it would mean that the consumers, termed as data subjects, would be able to come and check the accuracy of their personal data collected and processed at their bankers, telecommunications providers, or any other services providers that they had contract with.

Who will be implicated? Continue reading

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