Data Protection Bill passed in parliament

The newly passed Data Protection Bill will seek to protect consumers from unwanted marketing ads. (Yahoo! photo)

Ever received an unwanted SMS text ad or been on the receiving end of an annoying telemarketing call?

That will soon be a thing of the past after a new Data Protection Bill was passed in Parliament on Monday.

The Bill, which covers all private sector organizations, will ensure that individuals have to be informed of the purpose of the use and disclosure of their personal information by the firms. The bill does not apply to public sectors which include government ministries.

The Bill, which was passed after a lengthy debate, has gone through three rounds of public consultation by the Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts (MICA) since last September, gathering feedback of about 1,900 respondents. It will kick in early next year and companies will be given 18 months to adjust to the new law, with support given from the commissioning body to facilitate the transitioning period as well.

A new Do-Not-Call (DNC) registry is also slated to be launched in 2014. This system allows individuals to opt-out of receiving marketing messages. Consumers who have opted out and still receive such messages can lodge a complaint to the government body.

The Bill does not extend to spam emails or protection from cyber bullying.

A Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) will be set up to oversee matters pertaining to this act. It will focus on public education to help consumers understand the need to protect their personal data.

Several MPs such as MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC, Zaqy Mohamad, questioned if the Bill should make data protection for selected groups compulsory. The groups he mentioned included children under the age of 12, minors as well as vulnerable groups of society such as the mentally disabled.