Forum: Raise awareness of the need to appoint data protection officer, Forum News & Top Stories

The incident this year in which a man unlawfully used the NRIC and FIN numbers of his colleagues to collect masks from a mask vending machine highlights the importance of protecting such personal identification numbers (Jail for man who used colleagues’ data to redeem face masks, June 26).

Recently, my wife received a letter from Singtel for a broadband renewal promotion with part of her NRIC number printed – the last five alphanumeric characters. I am surprised to see this, as the common practice is to display only the last four alphanumeric characters, for example, Sxxxx567A.

And given that it was only a promotional letter, I do not see the need to print any part of the recipient’s NRIC number at all.

An individual’s NRIC number is a very sensitive piece of personal data as it can be used to access large amounts of information.

Singapore has made good progress in its data protection journey in this aspect by regulating the collection of NRIC numbers and physical retention of NRICs since September 2019.

In the two years since, the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) has done a good job in making many Singaporeans and organisations aware of the importance of protecting NRIC numbers and other personal data.

But in my interactions with some organisations, I am surprised to still hear that they are not aware that under the Personal Data Protection Act, they are required to designate at least one individual as the data protection officer.

The PDPC should do more to raise awareness of the need to appoint data protection officers. This could be done through mandating that businesses and organisations, including charities and condo management corporations, declare in their annual reporting to the relevant governing government agencies that they have appointed at least one data protection officer to oversee data protection responsibilities.

This would help to foster an environment of trust among businesses and consumers, and also strengthen Singapore’s position as a trusted hub for businesses.

Benjamin Ng C.K.