Take smartphone photos of customers? No consent needed

Shopkeepers who take smartphone pictures of customers for promotional reasons will not need their consent, following a U-turn by the authorities.

The idea was proposed by the Personal Data Protection Commission but has now been dropped after businesses said it could cause them too much trouble.

Yesterday, the commission explained the move, saying camera phones are now widely available and their use can be "reasonably expected". It has advised firms to put up notices informing customers that photographs might be taken.

The U-turn was contained in guidelines released yesterday that spell out firms' obligations under the new Personal Data Protection Act.

Thirty five businesses - including The Straits Times' parent company, Singapore Press Holdings - gave feedback earlier this year on how it can be applied.

The guidelines also make it clear that owners of buildings such as malls do not need people's consent to record security camera footage - even though the images are considered personal data.

The Association of Banks in Singapore and American Express International, for instance, were of the view that video images are publicly available personal data and explicit consent from individuals should not be required.

The Personal Data Protection Act is designed to prevent people's information from being stolen or indiscriminately collected for marketing purposes.

It has been in effect since Jan 2, but will not be enforced until next year as the Government wants to gather more industry feedback on the finer details. One issue still being considered is whether organisations will be barred from collecting personal data from children aged under 14 without their parents' prior consent.

This rule would affect nearly all social media sites operating in Singapore, including Facebook and Twitter. The commission is expected to clarify its stand on the issue in another set of guidelines to be issued at a later date.

itham@sph.com.sg