Guidelines for Personal Data Protection Act now available

A shopkeeper snapping pictures of his customers using his smartphone would not need to get prior consent. This is one of the guidelines that is outlined in the Personal Data Protection Commission's advisory guidelines which were issued on Tuesday evening.

The guidelines are meant to give greater clarity to companies on specific obligations under the Personal Data Protection Act. The Act is aimed at safeguarding personal information from being stolen or indiscriminately collected and used for marketing purposes. The guidelines on key concepts of the newly-minted Personal Data Protection Act are being released after two months of consultation with 35 companies earlier this year.

Referring to the shopkeepers taking pictures of their customers, the Commission noted that photo taking is generally considered to be "reasonably expected" as cameras in smartphones are widely available. However, as best practice, the commission also advised companies to put up notices to inform customers about such photo taking.

The Commission also clarified in its new guidlines that although surveillance camera images are considered personal data, building owners such as shopping malls and private estates do not have to get customers' explicit consent to record footage within their premises.

The Personal Data Protection Act has been in effect since Jan 2 this year, but it will not be enforced until next year as the Government wants to gather more feedback from the industry on its finer details.

As such, more guidelines are also expected to be issued over time as more areas open up for clarification.