Indonesia parliament passes long-awaited data protection bill

Users are entitled to compensation for data breaches and can withdraw consent to use their data.
PHOTO: Unsplash

JAKARTA – Indonesia's parliament passed into law on Tuesday (Sept 20) a personal data protection bill that includes corporate fines and up to six years imprisonment for those found to have mishandled data in the world's fourth most populous country.

The bill's passage comes after a series of data leaks and probes into alleged breaches at government firms and institutions in Indonesia, from a state insurer, telecoms company and public utility to a contact-tracing Covid-19 app that revealed President Joko Widodo's vaccine records.

Lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the bill, which authorises the president to form an oversight body to fine data handlers for breaching rules on distributing or gathering personal data.

The biggest fine is two per cent of a corporation's annual revenue and could see their assets confiscated or auctioned off.

The law includes a two-year "adjustment" period, but does not specify how violations would be addressed during that phase.

The legislation stipulates that individuals can be jailed for up to six years for falsifying personal data for personal gain or up to five years for gathering personal data illegally.

Users are entitled to compensation for data breaches and can withdraw consent to use their data.

Mr Abdul Kharis Almasyhari, a member of the commission overseeing the law, said it would mean the state was ensuring protection of the personal data of its people.

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Communications Minister Johnny Plate said the bill's passage "marks a new era in the management of personal data in Indonesia, especially on the digital front".

"One of the obligations for electronic data organisers, whether public or private, is to ensure protection of personal data in their system," he told reporters.

The law has been in the works since 2016 and was held up by debate about financial penalties and control of the oversight body, lawmakers said.

The authorities have said the law was based on the European Union legislation.

Mr Wahyudi Djafar, who researches data protection for the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy in Jakarta, questioned whether the penalties were strict enough to force government bodies to improve their data handling.