13 January 2015
Ahead of the UK's general elections, David Cameron has argued that the UK government should be allowed to access any and all forms of communication. It is premised on his assertion that until now, governments have always taken the position that there should be no means of communication that the government is unable to gain access to, which is why certain intrusive activities (think wiretapping) can be carried out with a warrant. He implies that his position is just a simple extension of the current practice.
If Mr Cameron gets his way, the effect would be that all forms of communication will become subject to government access (upon the necessary formalities being met) - your WhatsApps, iMessages, Snapchats, Telegrams, etc, notwithstanding that many of these communications services are encrypted in an attempt to protect the privacy of the users.
In this regard, Singapore can lay claim to being well ahead of the curve - Singapore's Personal Data Protection Act 2012 ("PDPA") has express exemptions for this purpose.
Beyond that, section 4(1)(c) of the PDPA exempts public agencies and organizations acting on behalf of public agencies entirely from the PDPA's data protection obligations. A "public agency" is defined under the PDPA as "the Government, including any ministry, department, agency or organ of State, any tribunal appointed under any written law, or any statutory body [established under a public Act]."
It therefore seems clear that the position in Singapore and currently espoused by Mr Cameron is "do as we say, not as we do". Private entities and companies are expected to provide personal data protection while government entities should be allowed complete and unrestricted access.
This ultimately brings into clearer view the underlying question that now plagues all modern societies - how far should civil liberties (however much of them remain) be eroded in the name of national security, and who wins when they are sacrificed?
Associate Director, Bernard & Rada Law Corporation
Post date. Edit this to change the date post was posted. Does not show up on published site. 13/1/2015
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