CPF Board needs to ensure secrecy of members' data

The CPF building in Bishan.
The CPF building in Bishan.PHOTO: ST FILE

Yet again, another Central Provident Fund member has complained about the CPF Board.

And once again, the CPF Board has responded on its Facebook page with details that read like the CPF member's financial history (CPF Board clarifies man's claim that he gets $15 in monthly payout, says unauthorised transfers to Medisave untrue, Sept 9, ST Online). Given the drive against fake news, the official reaction is understandable.

Yet, whatever Mr Michael Toh Thiam Hock's motivations and however deserving he may be of a knuckle rap, it is alarming that by its actions, the CPF Board may have overstepped its lawful authority, the scope of which perhaps needs clarification to its members.

Unlike the Banking Act, there does not appear to be any secrecy provisions under the CPF Act.

But when dealing with its business partners under the CPF Generic Data Exchange Centre, the CPF Board relies on the Official Secrets Act (OSA) when warning third parties of the consequences of breaching confidentiality.

It stands to reason that the CPF Board itself is subject to the OSA.

In practice, the CPF Board has been reported to exercise extreme caution with regard to the disclosure of a member's CPF details, even to close family members.

Those who defend the CPF Board have relied on it being on the Exemptions List under the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA). Surely this defence runs counter to the spirit of the PDPA.

Given that the CPF Board essentially acts as banker of the retirement funds of the Singapore population, it is incumbent upon the authorities to ensure the secrecy of its members' CPF history at all times.

Loh Kin Poh

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2019, with the headline 'CPF Board needs to ensure secrecy of members' data'. Print Edition | Subscribe