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Poor privacy protection in Malaysia, says Privacy International
Published by Centre for Indepedent Journalism January 17th, 2008 in Malaysian NGOs.

Press Release For Immediate Release
17 January 2008

Poor privacy protection in Malaysia, says Privacy International

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia scored miserably in the international ranking on privacy for 2007 mainly due to the continued use of the Internal Security Act which allows for police search and seizure of evidence without a warrant, the installation of closed-circuit television (CCTV) and the use of biometrics to monitor immigrants in an environment where privacy laws
and data protection do not exist.
In the International Privacy Ranking released on 28 December last year, Malaysia shared the last spot with China and Russia and categorised as “endemic surveillance societies”. This position (at an index of 1.3) is also shared with the Philippines, the US, Taiwan, Thailand and Singapore. Greece topped the European Union category as the best in privacy
protection scoring 3.1 out of 5 (”Adequate safeguards against abuse”), while Canada topped the international category with 2.9 (”Some safeguards but weakened protections”).

Malaysia’s poor record in privacy protection was said to be because of the absence of right to privacy in the constitution and other laws. Instead, there is interception authorised by the attorney general, the use of identification schemes (Mykad and the biometric), and the installation of CCTVs with no privacy safeguards. The report also said there is a “plan to implement a citizen data hub across government departments to keep information on individuals’ backgrounds, education, and health records.”

The Centre for Independent Journalism executive director Gayathry Venkiteswaran said there is generally very little appreciation for privacy and data protection in Malaysia, and individual information is easily available to the authorities and other parties. The Mykad has the capacity of holding personal details and banking information and private mobile numbers are easily obtained by sales people of any service or product without prior approval of the individual. Loan applicants are subject to a credit worthiness check supplied by a private company that could potentially blacklist individuals, also without their knowledge.

However, this situation contradicts the existing legal structures that promote secrecy in public decisions.

“On the one hand, individual information is not protected and can be use virtually by anyone for any purpose, but the authorities protect public interest information such as development deals, concessionaire agreements and consultancy agreements secret under the Official Secrets Act,” she said, referring to cases in Malaysia where the public have been denied information on water and health privatisation and toll concession deals because of the OSA.

The ranking has been jointly conducted by the US-based Electronic Privacy Information Center and the UK-based Privacy International since 1997. It surveys developments in 70 countries, assessing the state of surveillance and privacy protection. The report and other information can be accessed at this URL address: http://www.privacyinternational.org/index.shtml.

The Centre for Independent Journalism, Malaysia (CIJ) aspires for a society that is democratic, just and free, where all people enjoy free media and the freedom to express, seek and impart information. While calling for the abolition of repressive laws, CIJ also advances the need for a freedom of information legislation supported by sufficient privacy
protection for Malaysia.

Issued by Centre for Independent Journalism.

For more information, please call Gayathry Venkiteswaran, Executive
Director at 03 40230772

Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
27C Jalan Sarikei, off Jalan Pahang
53000 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03 4023 0772
Fax: 03 4023 0769