Samuel Seow: Inappropriate for statement by mall management to focus on possible PDPA breach than on injured shopper

An article was published yesterday about the recent accident at the Alexandra Central Mall where a lady was hit by a falling glass door in the mall, suffering multiple serious injuries, including head and liver injuries. The lady also had multiple fractures along her legs and pelvic bone, which means she will have to undergo surgery to help support and stabilize her spine.

The mall had issued a statement to the media, noting that they  are in communications with the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) to ensure that all their doors at the mall are certified safe for operations and reached out to the victim and family member(s) at the hospital and have offered any assistance if necessary.

In its statement, it also warned, “We have mentioned that firms actions will be taken with regards to the video leak. To further clarify, the point of issue is on the filming of the CCTV footage, which is a breach of PDPA rules and regulations as well as security protocol.”

“The privacy of the victim is to be respected and we take this matter very seriously, especially this incident is now a police case investigation,” it added.

Following the article being posted on TOC’s Facebook page, renowned lawyer, Samuel Seow shared his views on the breach of Personal Data Protection Act rules as alleged by the Management of Alexander Central Mall.

Mr Seow wrote,

The article says that the management of the mall issued a statement that said, “We have mentioned that firms actions will be taken with regards to the video leak. To further clarify, the point of issue is on the filming of the CCTV footage, which is a breach of PDPA rules and regulations as well as security protocol.“

The statement seems a little confused. If the issue is on the “filming of the CCTV footage” (the collection of personal data) then the fact that there could have been signs informing the public of the existence of CCTV cameras capturing footage and hence personal data would be sufficient notice if the signs informed of the collection and the purposes of collection and the channels of disclosure of the personal data collected. In any event as the place was a public space, the collection of personal data in a public space – in this case the filming – could have been done without consent because the data was in this case “publicly available”. However the guidelines do encourage the good practice of putting up signs that inform that CCTV cameras are in use and the purposes for such collection of personal data.

On the other point of the “leak” (disclosure of the relevant personal data) and who is responsible rather depends on whether the leak was occasioned by an employee of the mall or an external service provider. If it was an employee, then the mall would still be the organisation responsible and the enquiry would revolve around whether the mall had taken all reasonable action to prevent such disclosure. If it was by an external service provider like a security company who was engaged by the mall, then the security company would be the subject of the Commission’s enquiry.

But ultimately someone was hurt. For the statement issued by the mall to centre on a possible PDPA breach rather than on what they would do to take care of a fellow human being is, in my opinion, inappropriate.

For sake of transparency, this is what the management wrote to the media in full.

“We have cordoned off the affected area and further inspected other glass doors within the mall. The actions taken include cordoning off the glass door areas on level 4, level 5 and level 6.

A meeting and a joint inspection with the management team, council members, original installer contractor and ad hoc maintenance contractor was conducted.

It was concluded that all glass doors are to be taken down for further inspections on all door parts. The decision was taken to have all parts in relation to the glass door inspected and replaced.

We will be working with the original installer contractor to ensure that this process is carried out professionally and certified safe for operations.

We are in communications with the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) to ensure that our doors, upon further inspection and replacement, are certified safe for operations.

We have reached out to the victim and family member(s) at the hospital and have offered any assistance if necessary.

We have mentioned that firms actions will be taken with regards to the video leak.

To further clarify, the point of issue is on the filming of the CCTV footage, which is a breach of PDPA rules and regulations as well as security protocol.

The management engages a third-party security company and we have reached out to them to commence a thorough investigation.

The privacy of the victim is to be respected and we take this matter very seriously, especially this incident is now a police case investigation.

Once again, we would like to highlight that the management’s priorities are to ensure safety precautions are in place for the mall and that the lady recovers in hospital.”