The Blue Oceans for the Data Protection Officers (DPO)

By: Sonny Zulhuda

I recently concluded my talk at this event called Data Protection Excellence Network Forum 2019 upon invitation by Singapore Management University (SMU) and Straits Interactive on Tuesday this week (11/6/2019).

Featured together in the opening panel session with me were Commissioner Raymund Enriquez Liboro (Chairman of the Philippines National Privacy Commission), Dr Yudhistira Nugraha (Ministry of Communications and Informatics of Indonesia) and Kevin Shepherdson (Straits Interactive Singapore) discussing the trends and challenges of data protection law in the region and the new market demands for Data Protection Officers (DPO). The event with over hundred attendees were officiated by Dr Lim Lai Cheng who is the Executive Director of the SMU Academy.

Each of us spoke about the regional development of the data protection laws in Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia and Singapore respectively.

Malaysia had first enacted the law in 2010. Both the Philippines and Singapore followed the suit in 2012. Indonesia is currently preparing a draft bill and is expected to legislate by next year (2020). In term of enforcement, Singapore has recorded dozens of imposition of fines and notices against contravention of their personal data protection law. Meanwhile, the Philippines may only expect enforcement to begin next year in 2020.

In Malaysia, efforts to implement the law come in a combination of prosecution, inspection, establishment of codes of practices as well as public education.

There are in Malaysia at least five successful prosecutions of data users who contravened the PDPA 2010. Besides, it was noted that six sectoral data fora had registered their Codes of Practices (COP) including the banking and insurance sectors, electricity, telecommunications, aviation, and legal services.

In 2018 alone, the office of PDP Commissioner has carried out at least 57 inspections on data users nationwide. Empowered under section 101 of the PDPA 2010, such inspection is meant to promote the compliance of the law while trying to correct and improve the practices by data users in term of processing personal data.

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There is one interesting finding from the talk session. Each of the four countries commonly view that it is necessary legally for the data users to appoint a Data Protection Officer, a specifically designated high-level official to oversee the increasing challenges of data governance. Singapore and the Philippines have this in their laws. Indonesian draft bill includes this. And Malaysian government looks out to consider this matter in their ongoing review of the law.

This DPO is a blend of new skill. Straits Interactive noted that each lawyers and IT professionals make up to about 30% of the DPOs. Others come from business managers, HR, accountants, marketing as well as others. Therefore there is now an emerging need to somehow standardise the skill, hence the need for certifications. The good news is, this skill is acquirable.

In that Forum crowded by more than hundred of data users and data protection professionals from Singapore and the region, the demand for this market could not be overstated. It is simply obvious and there to grab.

So the ultimate message we had for all the lawyers, IT professionals and virtually everyone.. Is that there is a blue ocean in front of us now for the highly demanded data protection professionals. Let us swim there!

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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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