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Telcos, real estate agents get guidelines on data protection Act

They are first sectors to get proposed advisory

Posted on 24-Jan-2014
By: Joyce Lim

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Telcos, real estate agents get guidelines on data protection Act

AS the full force of the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) looms on July 2, the first of a potential series of proposed sector-based guidelines are now out, starting with the telecommunications and real estate agency industries.

While these proposed guidelines do not represent any changes to the general principles in the Act, they are a more granular interpretation of the PDPA.

The proposed guidelines for real estate agencies and telco entities, issued yesterday, are open for public consultation until Feb 13.

On the telco end, the 18-page document covers aspects of operations such as the display of personal data on subscribers' itemised bills, and how to treat personal data belonging to inbound and outbound roaming customers.

For example, the Personal Data Protection Committee (PDPC) offers suggestions on how to deal with the small size of a prepaid card in light of the need to notify consumers about how their personal data is being used.

The purpose of data- gathering can be briefly stated on the prepaid card, and the consumer can be referred to the operator's website for a more detailed statement, the PDPC said.

"The PDPC's latest proposed advisory guidelines have sought to address some of our concerns, thus adding some clarification to these issues under the PDPA," an M1 spokesman said.

"However, we are evaluating the proposed advisory guidelines in detail and will seek further clarification through the public consultation if necessary."

A StarHub spokeswoman said: "The protection of our customers' data privacy is important to us, and we want to make sure that we interpret the PDPA correctly. We will review the telco-specific PDPA guidelines carefully, and will provide our comments to PDPC in due course."

Over at SingTel, the operator will also examine and provide its views on the proposed guidelines, a spokesman said yesterday.

On the real estate end of things, the guidelines attempt to tackle some of the more esoteric issues for the sector.

For example, a real estate agent who found an apartment for a client two years ago cannot call the client now to solicit business without first checking the Do-Not-Call registry, in the absence of an ongoing relationship or clear and unambiguous consent to be marketed to over voice call, text or fax message.

"In general, one-time property transactions and enquiries are not sufficient to establish ongoing relationships between real estate salespersons and individuals," the PDPC said.

Some legislative housekeeping is also being done, with proposed changes to the Telecommunications Competition Code (TCC), mooted mainly to avoid duplication between the code and the PDPA.

After the changes pass, the PDPA will be the primary piece of legislation protecting the personal data of individual consumers, while the TCC will remain in place to protect the data belonging to businesses.

A public consultation is also being held for the proposed changes to the code, and it will close on Feb 28.

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