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Golding opposes exemption for public registries under Data Protection Act

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, September 14, 2019

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The Parliamentary Joint Select Committee (JSC) which is reviewing the Data Protection Act has agreed that public registers should not be exempted from mandatory registration as data controllers.
The JSC determined that the provision should be removed after an intervention from Opposition Member of Parliament Mark Golding, at its sitting on Thursday.
He insisted that as data controllers, public registries should have not been exempt from mandatory registration.
Golding said he was not satisfied with the proposal to exempt public entities that keep registers of citizens' data, as some of these entities are governed by laws that pre-date privacy issues and modern technology.
“I don't see why they should be excluded from the requirements of registration and whatever protection that gives citizens,” he stated.

He was reacting to the recommendation from the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology (MSET) to maintain the exemption clause in the Bill for public registries. Some interest groups have proposed that such registries should not, in fact, be exempt.

Principal director in the MSET, Kaydian Smith Newton explained that the ministry is of the view that registration of entities that keep public registers would be superfluous, by virtue of the nature of such registers.

“The establishment of a public registry is guided by legislation which identifies the nature of the data collected, how it is processed and the means of access. For this reason the information that would be contained in public registry would provide the information that would be required under this legislation and so we felt there was no need again to require public registries to also be registered as data controllers,” she outlined.

But Smith Newton also said it must be made clear that the fact that entities are not required to register does not make them exempt from following the standards set out in the Bill.

Golding said while he accepted that those standards would still apply to these entities, if they are not registered, the upholding of those standards may be more difficult.

He argued that public registers maintain data as a means to an end, and therefore do not collect data solely for the purpose of having them.

“It seems to me you can have personal data in public registers which are unprotected. Many of the public bodies that have data on people don't have any modern governance regime applicable to them — they may be decades old,” he stressed.

Committee chair and Technology Minister Fayval Williams agreed with the concern.

Meanwhile, Smith Newton noted that the ministry had also examined the arguments made by some stakeholders about the threat of over-regulation posed by automatic registration.

“We keep saying this will be a new regime, and we believe the office of the information commission ought properly to be provided with information as to all persons who are processing personal data, at least in the first instance,” she said.

Smith Newton pointed out that it was not until the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation, which requires all data controllers to register, was mature that it removed the requirement for automatic registration.

“We are of the view that we should maintain this particular provision as it is. It is not only important for oversight but it also provides the information commissioner with information to assist in the execution of other key functions,” she outlined.

The Data Protection Act creates a legal framework to secure the confidentiality of personal data which may be in the possession of State and private entities, and establish the office of an information commissioner to oversee the handling of such data.


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