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Culture change required when Data Protection Bill takes effect — attorney

BY TANESHA MUNDLE
Observer staff reporter
mundlet@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

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JAMAICAN companies will have to change the way they do business when the Data Protection Bill takes effect.

The Data Protection Act, which is currently under review, provides for the confidentiality of personal data held by companies, organisations, Government, and other entities; and the protection of the rights of individuals in relation to their personal data.

Speaking at the inaugural regional data security conference at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston last week Thursday, attorney Nicole Foga said the Act will require a culture change and paradigm shift in how data is collected, stored and used in the country.

“Today, in many sectors of our society, data is collected indiscriminately and used with little regard to the desire or wishes of the persons who are the subject of the data collected, and it is kept with little thought to the preservation of confidentiality and maintenance of data security, the result of which we are going to have to have a culture shift in how we deal with data,” she said.

According o the attorney, “Jamaica is very adept at intercepting people's privacy and not so good at the protection of the privacy.”

As it relates to the Act, she said many people are of the view that it will only affect large businesses, but that is not the case.

“It is going to affect large businesses, medium, small partnerships, and incorporated associations. Basically, everybody is going to be affected,” Foga said.

The attorney, while explaining how the Act will work, said a commissioner of information will be appointed who will act as an overseer and, in turn, will report to the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology.

The office of the commissioner will produce a Data Controller Registry for individuals within companies who are responsible for processing information, such as for bank accounts, medical information and payment details, she added.

The data collected will also cover biometric information as well as information on racial and ethnic origin, religious and political affiliation, as well as criminal records.

Foga said, too, that data should be solicited for lawful and fair purposes, and if obtained for one reason, should not be used for another.

Data controllers will be expected to disclose where they are keeping and transmitting data. They will also be required to pay both a registration fee and an annual fee, and failure to register will attract a fine of $2 million or imprisonment not exceeding five years.

Registered data controllers are also expected to report any breaches that they observe, she said, at the two-day conference last week.

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