S'pore personal data protection law 'has bite'

S'pore personal data protection law 'has bite'

SINGAPORE - The Singapore personal data protection regime has bite in more ways than one, said Ms Elizabeth Denham, Information and Privacy Commissioner of British Columbia, Canada.

Comparing the system here with that in Canada, which has been in place almost three decades before Singapore’s, she said: “There is stronger enforcement power in Singapore’s law.”

For instance, the data protection commissioner is able to fine rule breakers, whereas in Canada, only the courts can issue a fine.

The Singapore system also has a stiff financial penalty embedded in its legislation, providing a good deterrent to rogue behaviour.

“We don’t have monetary penalties embedded in our statutes,” said Ms Denham in an interview with The Straits Times on Friday.

The highest fine the Canadian courts have issued so far is $20,000, she noted.

In Singapore, however, the fine for violating general data protection provisions that protect consumers from inappropriate use and disclosure of their information goes up to $1 million.

Different democratic traditions in Singapore and Canada have also resulted in different approaches in regulating the public sector.

Privacy laws in Canada first came about to regulate the public sector. Laws governing the private sector started only 14 years ago. In contrast, Singapore government agencies are exempted from the new law passed in Parliament in October two years ago.

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