SINGAPORE - The report ("Take smartphone photos of customers? No consent needed"; Sept 25) said "shopkeepers who take smartphone pictures of customers for promotional reasons will not need their consent, following a U-turn by the authorities".
This was not a U-turn as we had put out the proposed Personal Data Protection Advisory Guidelines for consultation in February.
The proposed guidelines had set out the Personal Data Protection Commission's preliminary positions, and not the decisions. We are surprised that the process of taking on board feedback and modifying proposals put forward during a consultation has been mis-characterised as a "U-turn".
Under the Personal Data Protection Act, organisations are not required to obtain an individual's consent to collect personal data that is publicly available.
The proposed guidelines had, among other things, tried to identify the situations under which the Act would apply. Photo-taking in a store for promotional reasons was an example cited during the public consultation to illustrate how the Act applies in the context of collection of publicly available data.
After consulting the public, the Commission finalised the guidelines, which state that photo-taking would, in many circumstances, be considered a reasonably expected means of collecting personal data in a public place, as illustrated by the example that shopkeepers who take photos of customers in public spaces do not need to seek consent. However, shopkeepers who do so are advised to put up notices informing customers that their photos might be taken.
The report also stated that the Act is in effect but would not be enforced until next year, for the Government to gather more industry feedback.
In fact, the Act will take effect in phases to give organisations time to prepare for compliance, and not because there is a need to gather more feedback, as suggested by the article.
Provisions in the Act related to the formation of the Commission have taken effect from Jan 2. The other provisions of the Act will subsequently take effect from next January and July.
Director, Communications & Operations
Personal Data Protection Commission
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