More help for organisations to protect personal data in smart nation push

SINGAPORE - The mountain of personal data that companies are expected to collect and use to enable "smarter" citizen services - alongside the Government's smart nation push - must be protected.

To achieve this, Singapore's privacy watchdog will be beefing up its assistance to companies to help them comply with Singapore's Personal Data Protection Act.

Among the initiatives is a legal advice scheme to help companies assess their level of compliance and determine what else needs to be done - for a discounted fee of $500 for the first hour.

The Personal Data Protection Commission, which enforces the Act, will be working with the Law Society of Singapore to launch the service in June.

Announcing this on Friday, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister of Communications and Information said that building up companies' personal data protection capabilities is the Commission's priority this year.

"Personal data protection and cybersecurity are key factors to the success of Singapore's smart nation vision," Dr Yaacob noted.

He urged the private sector and the society to do their part to promote Singapore as a trusted data hub. "If we don't do it right, people will not have the confidence to work with and engage our companies," he added.

Fully enforced in July last year, the Act has provisions on how organisations may collect, use and disclose personal data. The Act also requires organisations to take "reasonable measures" to protect personal data in their possession.

Help has also come in the form of two guides: Guide to Securing Personal Data in Electronic Medium, and Guide to Managing Data Breaches.

The first one contains good cybersecurity practices such as how sensitive data in unwanted electronic devices can be wiped out. The second one prepares companies for data breaches, containing advice such as when end-users must be notified if their confidential information is leaked.

The Commission developed the guides with the Government's high-level Cyber Security Agency, launched last month.

From next month, organisations can also check up to 1,000 numbers against the Do Not Call Registry annually for free. This is double the free annual credits available today.

Such checks ensure that marketers do not call or text consumers who have opted out of receiving marketing messages.

The Commission said that 80 per cent of the 5,000 organisations that have set up accounts with it check fewer than 500 numbers a year.

itham@sph.com.sg