Government said it released personal data of sick woman in CPF case in the public interest

The CPF Board had detailed the woman's case and circumstances and appeared to identify her as Ms Sua. This led to questions on whether the woman's personal data should have been disclosed.
The CPF Board had detailed the woman's case and circumstances and appeared to identify her as Ms Sua. This led to questions on whether the woman's personal data should have been disclosed.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Government said it wanted to provide the public with correct and relevant facts in the case of a sick woman who had sought to access her Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings. That is why it decided to disclose her personal data.

This came after after it received queries from the media regarding its policy on disclosing someone's personal data in certain cases of public interest.

In a statement on Friday (Dec 27), the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO) said that the law permits such disclosure, including the identity of the individual, in the public interest.

The case came into the spotlight following a Dec 17 report from sociopolitical website The Online Citizen which said that the CPF Board had rejected the single mother's request to draw funds from her CPF account.

The CPF Board responded to this through a Facebook post on Dec 19, which detailed the woman's case and circumstances and appeared to identify her as Ms Sua. This, in turn, led to questions on whether the woman's personal data should have been disclosed.

In its statement on Friday, the SNDGO said: "The Online Citizen first published an article on Ms Sua on 17 Dec 2019 which omitted key facts and contained misleading statements. The relevant public agencies jointly issued a clarification to provide the full picture to the public. Some specific personal information was disclosed in order to convey verifiable facts and to enable the individual to challenge the Government's account of the case, if need be."

It added: "Public agencies have a duty to preserve the public trust reposed in them and to ensure that citizens are not misled."

The CPF Board's post on Dec 19 had flagged details including Ms Sua's admission to the National University Hospital in 2011 for her lupus condition, her recent visits to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, as well as her application for financial aid.

It had also said that the woman could reapply to access her CPF savings on medical grounds, once her doctors had certified that she met the medical criteria.

 
 
 
 

In its statement on Friday, the SNDGO likened the approach to that followed by the Personal Data Protection Commission, which permits companies to disclose relevant personal information about an individual in a public forum, in order to counter false or misleading allegations from that individual. "This gives the companies an opportunity to clear the air for themselves, and convey the facts of the case to the public."

It further noted that such lawful disclosures of information should not be conflated with unauthorised breaches of citizens' data, which all public agencies including the CPF Board are committed to guard against.

"Public agencies abide by the data protection regulations under the Public Sector (Governance) Act and in the Government Instruction Manuals," said the SNDGO spokesman.

"These are no less stringent than the requirements of the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) which apply to the private sector."