Personal Data Protection Commission: No ad inserts in bills unless consent is obtained

Unwanted brochures that come with telco or credit card bills will soon be a thing of the past. Under new guidelines issued today by the Personal Data Protection Commission, marketing brochures can only be inserted with consumers' consent.

Consumers must also be allowed to opt out of receiving these marketing materials that come with their bills. This certainty came after a month-long public consultation with the public early this year.

The Commission, a statutory board administering the Personal Data Protection Act, has also clarified that a minor has to be at least 13 years old to be able to give consent for the use of his or her personal data for marketing purposes.

This practical rule-of-thumb is in line with local laws like the Employment Act and PG13 video ratings, and is based on the understanding that someone who is at least 13 years old would have sufficient understanding.

This clarification also came about after a public consultation, albeit a separate one, conducted earlier this year.

For instance, a 19 year old who subscribes to a magazine may give consent to the publisher for using his personal data for the marketing of other magazines. But parents' consent must be obtained to use the personal data of a preschool child by third parties to arrange a field trip, say, to the zoo.

These new rules "will facilitate legitimate and reasonable use of personal data by businesses, enhance Singapore's position for data management activities, and at the same time protect individuals against misuse and unauthorised disclosure of their data," said Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information.

He was giving the opening address at the 2nd Personal Data Protection Annual Seminar at Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel Friday morning.

More proposed guidelines targeted at the education, social services and health care sectors have also been put up for public consultation on the website of the Commission, the second in a series of guidelines for different sectors that the Commission is expected to issue over the next few months.

These guidelines are expected to help companies comply with the Personal Data Protection Act, which will be enforced from July 2.

The current set of guidelines aims to provide more clarity on matters such as the collection of personal data from patients seeking medical care, and the use of students' personal data for admission into schools and the timely provision of social services.

For instance, if a patient has agreed to be referred to a specialist by a general practitioner, the agreement would constitute consent for his doctor to disclose his personal data to the specialist as required for the referral.

The consultation will close on June 6.

Guidelines for the real estate and telecommunications sectors were the first to be publicly consulted on.