On 21 April 2016, Singapore's Personal Data Protection
Commission (PDPC) published its decisions (Click here to find out
more.) of action taken against organisations in breach of
provisions relating to the collection, use and disclosure of
personal data under the Personal Data Protection Act 2012 (the
PDPA). There were nine published decisions involving 11
organisations in total – four organisations were slapped with
fines while the other seven were issued with warnings for failure
to protect the consumers' personal data.
The provisions of the PDPA that were breached mainly related to
the failure to implement adequate data protection measures by the
organisations in question including failure to appoint a data
protection officer, failure to update the software containing
customer information and the use of weak passwords (such as those
comprising only one letter in the alphabet).
The highest fine of S$50,000 was meted out to the operator of a
chain of karaoke outlets for a data security breach involving
unauthorised disclosure of over 317,000 individuals' personal
data. The operator's IT vendor was also found guilty and fined
S$10,000 despite being a third-party service provider (and
therefore a data intermediary). While data intermediaries are
partially exempted from the data protection obligations in the
PDPA, this decision reiterates that data intermediaries are also
responsible for complying with the provisions related to the
protection and retention of personal data (including protecting the
personal data that it was processing on behalf of the operator of
the karaoke outlets).
From these decisions, it can be distilled that the PDPC will
take into account the organisation's initial response to the
breach and the level of co-operation throughout the investigations
when deciding on the appropriate penalty. For example, the operator
of the chain of karaoke outlets was found to be less than
forthcoming in providing information during the investigations and
provided bare facts in their responses – this was found to be
an aggravating factor in deciding the penalty to be meted out.
On the same day that the above decisions were published, the
PDPC also published the advisory guidelines (Click
here for more information.) relating to the enforcement of the
data protection provisions in the PDPA and regulations. The
guidelines, although non-binding, indicate how in practice the PDPC
proposes to handle complaints, reviews and investigations of
breaches of data protection rules, and its approach to enforcement
and sanctions. The guidelines indicate that the PDPC will take into
account the time taken by the organisation alleged to be in breach
to resolve a matter, whether the breach was intentional, repeated
or ongoing, any obstruction or concealment of information, the
failure to comply with previous warnings as well as the nature and
volume of sensitive personal data held by the organisation.
These latest decisions, together with the new guidelines, serve
as a reminder to organisations of the consequences of failing to
comply with the PDPA. In addition, given the scale of the penalties
that may be meted out, they serve to impress on all organisations
the seriousness of the consequences of any breaches of PDPA
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