Data protection is a constitutional right, says attorney
Attorney and founder of consulting firm, Design Privacy, Chukwuemeka Cameron

KINGSTON, Jamaica — Attorney and founder of consulting firm, Design Privacy, Chukwuemeka Cameron, says data protection is important in the Jamaican context, as it is a constitutional right that allows for those in authority to protect the use of citizens' information.

Cameron, who is also a trained data protection officer, was speaking at a tTech Data Privacy panel discussion held in observance of Data Protection Day, which is being recognised on Friday globally.

In April, 2019 the Constitutional Court had highlighted deficiencies in the original 2017 National Identification and Registration Act (NIDS Bill), which was eventually pulled and the vexing issues addressed in the new draft tabled late in 2020 by Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

Coming out of that 2019 judgment, Cameron pointed out that the court also gave a declaration of the rights of Jamaicans to information privacy.

"In 2019, our constitutional court actually... declared our right to informational privacy, and in so doing, our Chief Justice said that, basically, if anyone uses our data without our permission, they would be breaching our rights to privacy," he explained.

"So, we are starting from a position of a constitutional right. So, not only it is a constitutional right, we have a piece of legislation that actually gives teeth to right that was declared by our constitutional court. That legislation sets out what those rights are," he continued.

According to Cameron, data protection is even more important because of the information age in which persons now live.

"We may not appreciate it, but at the end of the day, having the ability to determine and protect what is private to us, goes to the heart of who we are as humans that we get to preserve our dignity and what we hold dear to us," declared the attorney.

Meanwhile, Cameron highlighted that data protection was also important as the "government or private companies can exploit that private data and, by extension, exploit us without us even being aware of it."

He added that, "So If we strive to be independent and autonomous beings, it's not only a question of being free from anything physical shackles, but we must have the ability to determine our future and the only way we can do so is if we can determine who and how our personal data is used."

On December 1, last year, the first information commissioner for the long-delayed National Identification System, Celia Barclay, took office. As information commissioner, Barclay will have strategic oversight for the establishment of the office in keeping with the Data Protection Act (DPA).

“An appointed day notice (ADN) bringing the provisions regarding the office of the information commissioner into force on December 1, 2021 was gazetted and, pursuant to the Data Protection Act (DPA). Data controllers will have two years from December 1, 2021 to become compliant with the new Act,” then Science, Energy and Technology Minister, Daryl Vaz told the Jamaica Observer last December. Data controllers will also monitor how citizens' data are used safely to preserve its privacy.

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