Government agencies sometimes have to disclose personal data in order to correct inaccuracies and provide an accurate picture of a complaint in order to maintain public trust and to serve all citizens effectively, said Minister of State for Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary in Parliament on Monday (3 January).

This comes after the incident last December when the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board disclosed the personal information of a woman suffering from lupus who had publicly but anonymously voiced her ire with the agency in relation to her struggles with withdrawing her savings in order to pay for her medical expenses.

Following the disclosure, the woman commented on the CPF Board‘s clarification Facebook post, asking it not to mislead readers and wrote what CPF Board got it wrong in regards to her case.

Dr Puthucheary said, “Government agencies sometimes need to disclose personal data in the public interest to counter inaccuracies about the government’s processes or policies contained in publicised complaints or petitions, in particular when it is the complainant who has called public attention to the case.”

He explained that not correcting these inaccuracies about government process and policies could mislead people into making ill-informed decisions that could be detrimental to them.

Noting that disclosure of personal data by government agencies are “limited in scope”, the minister laid out three guiding principles in the matter which serve to safeguard personal data from unnecessary disclosure.

First, is that personal data will be disclosed only if the agency’s clarification is disputable or insufficiently clear without the disclosure of such data.

Second, the personal data being disclosed has to be specific enough to provide a full picture of the issue at hand to enable the complainant to challenge the government’s account of the case based on the facts provided.

Finally, Dr Puthucheary says that care is taken not to disclose personal data that is irrelevant to the case.

“However, on occasion, it will be necessary to disclose the identity of the person involved in the case even when the publicised complaint itself has been anonymised,” added the minister.

“This is to remove any ambiguity in the government’s statement of the facts and settle any doubts over the matter conclusively in the minds of the public.”

Following that, Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Associate Professor Walter Theseira noted his concern that such publication of personal would discourage people from reaching out help.

He asked if the government would consider implementing a protocol which would require agencies to first get the complainant to agree to the publication of a statement of clarification by the agency. Assoc. Prof Theseira suggested that the agency could then clarify matters without the person’s consent only as a last resort.

Dr Puthucheary responded, “The issue at hand is of course that these types of public declarations, whether anonymised or not, are going to be unusual in nature. There is something about the case or the complainant or the interaction which doesn’t quite fall into a standard operating procedure not lend itself to a protocol. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be in this situation.”

He explained that it is also “inappropriate” to constraint the agency’s response to inaccurate or outright false public statement which could open itself up to manipulation, ambiguity, and disinformation, either deliberate or inadvertent.

The minister asserted, “The bottom line is that should a complaint of this nature occur in public, associated with this information and which impacts the way in which government processes, government policies that serve citizens are being misrepresented, we should expect to reply in public and disclose information so that we can set the record straight and make sure that Singapore and Singaporeans are well informed.”

Following from that, NMP Anthea Ong asked if there are channels for citizens who want to seek redress against the government for what they might deem as unfair public disclosure given that the government is not bound by the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA).

Dr Puthucheary answered that there are a number of channels and feedback routes, from physical touch points such as service centres and MPs to online channels such as the OneService app and emails of quality service managers.

However, he added, “PDPA notwithstanding and my answer notwithstanding, none of this prevents or is meant to discourage a citizen from seeking redress from a complaint.”

He continued, “It is merely that should a complaint occur in the public space and as a result of that complaint, the public has been misinformed, inaccuracies have been stated, then those inaccuracies have to be stated in the public in a way that is unambiguous and robustly explains the facts to everybody.”

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
You May Also Like

世卫组织:武汉不明肺炎 初步鉴定为新型冠状病毒

世界卫生组织(WHO)周三(8日)表示,中国武汉的不明原因的病毒性肺炎疫情,初步鉴定结果为一种新型冠状病毒。 中国武汉近日爆发病毒性肺炎案例,截至目前已增至59宗。据联合国卫生组织表示,目前仍需更全面的信息来确认感染源的病原体类型,但确实有可能是另一种新型冠状病毒。 根据中国中央电视台记者,从病院检测结果初步评估专家组了解到,截至2020年1月7日,实验室检出一种新型冠状病毒,获得该病毒的全基因组序列,经核酸检测方法共检出新型冠状病毒,共有15例程阳性结果。从其中一个样本分离出的病毒经电子显微镜检视后,呈典型冠状病毒形态。 而专家组则认为,此次不明原因的病毒性肺炎病例的病院体,初步判定为新型冠状型病毒,但仍需结合病原学研究、流行病学调查和临床表现进行专家研判。 感染人类冠状病毒达六种 冠状病毒是一种主要引起呼吸道与肠道疾病的病原体,目前已知冠状病毒有数十种,病毒的主要宿主是哺乳类动物(包含人类)而 会感染人类的冠状病毒共有6种,其中包含可能造成严重疫情的SARS和MERS,但也有可能是症状比较轻微的呼吸道、肠胃道感染。 中国武汉上月爆发不明原因病毒性肺炎,59人已确诊,武汉市卫生健康局日前也表示,在59宗不明原因病毒肺炎中,有7宗属于重症病例,但其余患者生命体征整体稳定,且目前所有患者已接受武汉市医疗机构的隔离治疗,暂无死亡病例。 其中病例最早发病时间为去年12月12日,最晚发病则是去年12月29日,部分患者来自武汉市华南海鲜城(华南海鲜批发市场)经营户,但截至目前为止,仍未发现仍和明确人传人的证据,或医务人员受感染,已排除流感、禽流感、腺病毒、传染性非典型肺炎(SARS)和中东呼吸综合症(MERS)等呼吸道病原。

Review of 22 March fatal accident: Vital safety protection measure was not applied

Vital safety protection measure was not applied in the case of the…

‘We moved so fast, we left our people behind,” Presidential hopeful Dr Tan Cheng Bock

In Part 1 (of 3) of an exclusive interview, presidential hopeful Dr…

挪威发生严重土石崩落 八栋房瞬间被“扫”入海

挪威芬马克郡阿尔塔(Alta)市发生严重的土石崩落事件,山崖边的八栋房屋遭土石流“席卷”入海中,在北极洋上浮沉,所幸无任何伤亡事件。 据Jan Egil Bakkeby所提供的视频中,只见八栋房子随着强大土石流在移动,被挤压后沉入海洋中,前后都不到两分钟。 据帖文指出,土石崩落事件于当地时间星期三发生。受土石流影响的面积宽达8000公尺,高132英尺,涉及八栋房子和一辆汽车。 据当地媒体报导指出,有一人在事发时遭紧急撤离,一只狗狗自行脱困,且有数次小规模的土崩在之后发生,附近在居民都被紧急疏散。 基于当时无法确定不会再发生土石崩塌等事故,救援当局曾停止工作,目前尚在调查事发原因。