Stricter personal data protection guidelines from Sept 1: Who can and cannot collect NRIC numbers?


SINGAPORE - From Sunday (Sept 1), organisations will be legally barred from collecting, using or disclosing NRIC numbers or making copies of the identity card, under new and stricter rules enforced by Singapore's privacy watchdog, the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC).

First announced in August last year, the rules are designed to protect the personal data of Singaporeans.

They fall under the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA). Organisations that flout it can incur a financial penalty of up to $1 million.

When do I not have to give up my NRIC?

Unless required by law or when it is necessary to accurately identify you, you do not need to give your full national identification number.

The organisation also cannot retain your card.

This includes when applying for retail memberships, signing up for contests or lucky draws, renting a bicycle, buying movie tickets online or completing survey forms - long-standing practices that use the NRIC details as identifiers.

You should also not furnish your NRIC or its details when entering the premises of a private condominium or using a computer at an Internet cafe.

When must I release my NRIC information?

You have to provide the information when the law requires it.

For example, when seeking medical treatment at a general practitioner clinic, which is required under the Private Hospitals and Medical Clinics Regulations.

Another instance is when you are checking into a hotel. The information is required under the Hotel Licensing Regulations.

Subscribing to a phone line also requires you to give your NRIC details, under the Telecommunications Act.

You can also be asked to give your NRIC details when the inability to identify you accurately could cause significant harm.

The details may also be needed for property transactions or healthcare matters, such as when applying for insurance and making medical claims.

Must I show my NRIC when asked to verify my age, or to verify my identity?

This is allowed, when just the sight of an individual's physical NRIC and information is needed for verification purposes.

It is permitted as long as there is no intention to control or possess the physical NRIC, and that no personal data is retained and the NRIC is returned immediately.

Do the new rules apply only to the NRIC?

The stricter rules apply also to cards with your NRIC number on them, like a driver's licence, as well as other national identification numbers like birth certificate numbers, foreign identification numbers and work permit numbers.

While passport numbers are periodically replaced, organisations should avoid collecting the full passport numbers of individuals as well, unless justified.

What are alternatives to the NRIC for identification purposes?

Alternatives may include organisation or user-generated ID, tracking numbers or organisation-issued QR codes, or partial NRIC details of up to the last three numerical digits and letter.

Will I still be asked for my NRIC details to access government services and premises?

Yes. The advisory guidelines on NRIC do not apply to the Government.

The NRIC number is a unique identifier assigned by the Government to each Singapore resident that is often used for transactions with the Government.

As the issuing authority for the NRIC, the Government says it rightfully uses the NRIC to discharge its functions and services with citizens in a secure manner.

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