Public feedback invited for Data Protection Bill

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

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KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — The public is being invited to provide feedback on the Data Protection Bill, which was tabled in the House of Representatives earlier this month by the Minister of Science, Energy and Technology, Dr Andrew Wheatley.

Speaking at a recent JIS Think Tank, Senior Advisor in the ministry, Trevor Forrest, informed that the Bill can be downloaded from Parliament's website at www.japarliament.gov.jm.

He said that a joint select committee will be formed to review and solicit stakeholder and public feedback “to ensure that this legislation covers everything that needs to be covered”.

The Data Protection Bill seeks to safeguard the privacy of individuals in relation to personal data, as well as normalise the collection, regulation, processing, keeping, use and disclosure of certain information in physical or electronic form.

Private- and public-sector entities will need to implement the necessary technical and institutional support to ensure greater protection of personal data within their custody or control.

“It aims to put a framework in place that speaks to how people or custodians of citizens' information ought to treat with that information,” Forrest pointed out.

He said it will give citizens the right to request their own information, pointing out that some entities holding information on persons refuse to provide it when asked.

He identified banking and health records as examples of such data.

“If and when your information becomes compromised for any reason, it is your right to know, and this legislation is meant to put those kinds of requirements in place,” he noted.

Forrest explained that without such legislative framework in place, “wherever your data is stored, if anything happens to that information, or if you feel that the information is not being handled properly, there is little recourse that you have as it relates to taking action”.

He said that another important component of the legislation is the creation of a Data Commissioner responsible for putting all the policies and regulations in place to ensure data is protected.

“They may need to go and audit the data controllers, public or private sector,” he pointed out.

The senior advisor said the legislation plays a pivotal part in the cybersecurity effort that is being undertaken by the Government, “as there is a lot of information out there, and it needs to be protected”.

The tabling of the Bill coincides with Cyber Security Awareness Month, which is being observed internationally in October.

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