From Brussels: The Islamic Legal Conceptions of Privacy

By: Sonny Zulhuda

IMG_20190130_094243Last week (1st February 2019) I concluded the International Conference on Privacy and Data Protection (CPDP2019) in the heart of Europe, City of Brussels. It is organised by a consortium of primary European universities, supported by global companies, and endorsed by the European Union institutions.

It’s the 12th edition of this annual global event on privacy & data protection. 3 days of fascinating and thought-provoking talks, speeches and discussions. Thank you @CPDPconferences for inviting me as a speaker on privacy in Islam.

Thanks to @darahallinan who initiated this panel for the first time. Entitled “Islamic Legal Conceptions of Privacy.” The idea is to understand how privacy is actually a universal value adopted by wide and global communities and traditions.

Being the first speaker, I first introduced that for every Muslim, Islam is the way of life and provides a comprehensive guidelines for both private and public interactions.

Then I spoke mainly on the evidences from the Quran (as the primary source of Islamic law) which provide basis of privacy right and how to implement it in life, starting from early childhood: they should ask parent’s permission before entering their private rooms at three specific times in a day.

I highlighted how important it is to respect others’ dignity by not transgressing their rights, not spying on them, not backbiting, not ridiculing them, and not calling them by undesired labelling/tagging.

Muslims are told to get mutual consent when affecting others’ rights, to record agreements, to enter their houses upon prior consent, and to leave if asked to. Not less importantly a command to investigate information received (verification and authentication).

Those are exactly the rights pertinent to privacy and data protection nowadays.

At the end, I noted that 1. Islam calls for peace, justice and harmony; 2. Privacy is one of important rights to be preserved; and 3. At all time, Muslims will be accountable to God, Society and oneself.

And not forgetting I also shared some updates on the privacy laws and Personal Data Protection laws in both Indonesia and Malaysia. Some good news here and there.

Thank You Chair, moderator and fellow panelists Prof Andrew Adams (Japan), Prof Elizabeth Coombs (Malta), Nighat Dad (Pakistan), Lahoussine Aniss (Marocco), and Patrick Penninckx (EU) for making it a beautiful panel. Looking forward to connecting further. Thank you @CPDPconferences.

#PrivacyinIslam #CPDP2019 #Brussels #Malaysia #Indonesia #PDPA

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Data Sovereignty vs Data Localisation Law

By: Sonny Zulhuda

Transferring personal data beyond national boundaries has been a point of contention under many data protection laws across the globe. The European Union adopts this restriction that such transfer beyond EU boundaries cannot be done unless to the countries or places which have adequate protection on personal data of individuals.

Cloud-Data-SecurityThis rule is associated with the concept of “Data Sovereignty” which says that a country shall not lose a control or sovereignty over the processing of personal data pertaining to data subjects from that country. It also imposes that information which has been stored in digital form is subject to the laws of the country in which it is located. Therefore, a control over trans-border data flow is a form of upholding data sovereignty.

The concept of Data Sovereignty is reflected in the EU Data Protection Directives 1995 recitals whereas:

  • cross-border flows of personal data are necessary to the expansion of international trade;
  • the protection of individuals guaranteed in the Community by this Directive does not stand in the way of transfers of personal data to third countries which ensure an adequate level of protection;
  • the transfer of personal data to a third country which does not ensure an adequate level of protection must be prohibited.

As much as we are concerned with personal data transferred beyond our border, we also appreciate that personal data is inherently needed for the International trade and International cooperation. Hence, when a personal data is subject to trans-border flow, there shall be no discriminatory treatment to the citizen’s personal data despite where it is processed.

Data Localisation Law

This data sovereignty is sometimes confused with the rules of “Data Localisation”, which is totally a different thing. Data localisation laws set forth requirements to keep and store data “locally” (i.e., within national or regional borders), and thus not allowing data users to transfer data beyond borders. Consequently, any foreign party who wishes to collect or process personal data of individuals will be required to establish a local data storage facilities in the country of those individuals. Continue reading

Open Government and Cyber Security in Malaysia

By: Sonny Zulhuda

Open government is the notion that allows transparency of governments in running matters pertinent to public interests. According to that concept, the government shall allow its citizens an access to government documents and a right to obtaining information relating to public matters.

In Malaysia recently, the Open Government initiative was represented in the Public Sector Open Data Portal programme which was launched in September 2015 by MAMPU, a Unit under the Prime Minister’s Department. It declares that the aim of such initiative is to open and share government data to public and hence to enhance transparency and efficiency of government and to create a digital innovativeness.

 

With this background, the question of how the Government deals with the increasing demand of freedom of information and other challenges ranging from personal data to the government data security is worth examining. I was invited to talk about this at an international conference hosted by Sydney Cyber Security Network, the University of Sydney, Australia. In my presentation, I highlighted a recent initiative of open data in Malaysian public sector and the related challenges on data security, privacy and information surveillance.

I was also looking at the recent developments in Malaysia relating to the enactment of personal data protection law and recent policies relating to critical infrastructure protection. Lessons from cases and incidents surrounding information security and personal data breaches were discussed to trigger discussions on relevant solutions and best practice.

Among the key summary of my talk in Sydney was as following:

  • Open Government is underway, but more economically-motivated and narrowly looked at “open data”. A long way to the “open government”.
  • Cyber security governance enhances the security of data in the Malaysian cyberspace. However:
  • There is a striking imbalance in the legal framework between the protection of secret on one hand, and the freedom of information on the other.
  • The data privacy law boosts the transparency in the private & commercial sector, but it is a missed opportunity for an open government.
  • The open government initiative needs to be supported as national agenda, to be backed by a stronger law and national policy.

Cyber Security in the Era of Open Government: A note from the University of Sydney

By: Sonny Zulhuda

I was honored to be invited by the University of Sydney to talk about this on November 2016. The event, called “Cyber Security in the Era of Open Government”, sought to identify innovative solutions for improving the security of open government services and their users. 



Several keynoters were invited to provide for the best practices from the public and private sectors, both locally and internationally on issues surrounding the cyber security challenges associated with increasing citizens’ access to government data. The preview of the program can be traced in the USyd’s website page here.

The conference was split up into 3 thematic panels:

1. Open Government and Cyber Security in Australia. Three renowned personalities from Australian regulators spoke, namely Tim Pilgrim (Acting Australian Information Commissioner and Australian Privacy Commissioner); Elizabeth Tydd, (NSW Information Commissioner and Head of the Information and Privacy Commission); and Rolf Green, who was the Director of Information, ICT and Digital Government Division, Australian Department of Finance, Services and Innovation.

2. Open Government from Global Perspectives. In this session, I spoke alongside with an American Charles Bell, CEO of Startup Policy Lab (SPL); Dr. Janet Xu, Associate Researcher of the University of Oxford; and the Canadian Dr Khaled El Emam, himself a Professor at the University of Ottawa. I also like to note that this session was chaired by my friend Dr Adam Molnar, a lecturer in criminology at the Deakin University, Victoria, Australia.

3. Privacy, Surveillance and Government Services. This afternoon session presented a speakers from a diverse background, namely Dr. Elizabeth Coombs, NSW Privacy Commissioner; Professor Fleur Johns, Associate Dean (Research) UNSW; Bernard Keane, Crikey’s political editor.

Readings on SOSMA 2012 and the Electronic Monitoring Devices

By: Sonny Zulhuda

emd-sample-ag-250813

Electronic tagging is a form of surveillance which uses an electronic device (a tag) fitted to the person. It is commonly used as a form of electronically monitored punishment for people who have been sentenced to electronic monitoring by a court, or required to wear a tag upon release from prison. The use of electronic monitoring devices in Malaysia has been first introduced by the  Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (SOSMA) (Act 747). This article sourced few online reading materials relating to the use of electronic monitoring devices vis a vis the SOSMA. Therefore the similar concerns under the new amendment to the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) 2012 are beyond the ambit of this survey.

In December 2015, Bernama reported that more than 200 people detained under the Prevention of Crime Act (POCA) have been strapped with an electronic monitoring device (EMD), quoting the Federal CID director, Datuk Seri Mohmad Salleh as saying. Salleh added that this effort was taken to monitor the movements of those people (apparently upon release – added), as well as to test the effectiveness of the device. Based on the similar report by Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed, the Home Deputy Minister, those who were detained under POCA include mainly those involved in gangsterism, violent crimes, property crimes as well as drug-related crimes. The report can be read here.

A similar provision on the use of EMD is also found in the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (SOSMA). In section 7(1), the SOSMA provides for special procedures relating to the electronic monitoring device. It prescribes that, upon application by the Public Prosecutor under section 4 (which provides for the arrest and detention of a person believed to be involved in security offences), the Court shall order the person to be attached with an electronic monitoring device for a period as the Court may determine but which shall not exceed the remainder of the period of detention allowed under subsection 4(5) for purposes of investigation. Section 4(5) of SOSMA grants the maximum of extension to 28 days after the initial 24 hours of detention for the purpose of investigation.

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