Suspend Padu, amend law first, says lawyers group

Ravin Palanisamy

Lawyers for Liberty director Zaid Malek says the Central Database Hub platform raises serious data security concerns and implementation of it should be suspended until necessary amendments have been made to the Personal Data Protection Act 2010. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, January 4, 2024.

LEGAL rights group Lawyers for Liberty has called for the Central Database Hub (Padu) platform, launched by the government to centralise information, to be suspended until specific laws are amended. 

Zaid Malek, its director, said the platform raised serious data security concerns and called for the Personal Data Protection Act 2010 (PDPA) to be amended. 

“Whilst there are valid reasons advanced why this initiative is necessary, there are legitimate and serious concerns regarding the protection and security of the data collected.

“As it stands, section 3(1) of the Personal Data Protection Act 2010 exempts the government from its application, meaning that the data collected by Padu can be disseminated or used by the government beyond its declared purpose of targeted subsidies. 

“There have been cases of misuse of data by the government before where personal data were used to disseminate propaganda by way of SMS to the public.  

“It would be a massive betrayal of trust should data collected from the public be used by the government for any political purpose,” Zaid said in a statement today.  

Padu, which contains profiles of individuals and households, including citizens and permanent residents in Malaysia, is an integrated socio-economic database that combines data from government departments and agencies to provide a fair representation of the socio-economic status of each household in Malaysia. 

Zaid said with data collected being centralised on a single platform, the security of the data must be made a priority.  

He said the government, unfortunately, had a bad track record concerning data protection.  

“There are numerous reports of data being stolen from multiple government agencies, exposing users to scams and data fraud with no legal recourse as the government is exempt from liability under the PDPA.  

“This puts the public at a terrible disadvantage and danger of loss and damage,” the lawyer said. 

On Economy Minister Rafizi Ramli’s pledge to bring in an “Omnibus Bill” to deal with these matters, Zaid said details for the bill were lacking. 

Zaid said the so-called Omnibus Bill should have been introduced before implementing the Padu scheme.  

Zaid said it was not enough for the government to give verbal assurances that the data collected under Padu would not be misused or would be protected.  

He said there was a need for an immediate amendment to the PDPA to place responsibility and liability on the government as well as the agencies responsible for the protection and security of the data collected.  

“Whether there is an Omnibus Bill or not, the amendments to the PDPA must be done,” he said.  

Zaid added that there must be a system in place for a public inquiry should any data breaches occur so that affected users could be informed of the breach and take necessary action against anyone responsible for the breach. 
“Without the amendments being made before the launch of Padu, the public cannot be assured that their data will be protected from misuse by the government or scammers and unscrupulous individuals who will undoubtedly target the massive database.  

“This type of criminality is notoriously widespread now and has become regional.  

“It is strange that the government has proceeded without fixing the law as this is tantamount to ‘putting the cart before the horse’.

“Hence, we call upon the government to suspend the implementation of Padu until necessary amendments are made to the PDPA.  

“The government must hold itself responsible in law before it can launch any data collection platform to ensure that the data collected is protected and secured.  

“Any exemption from liability is unacceptable and shows the lack of confidence by the government of its own platform and its ability to protect the collected public data from misuse or theft,” he said. – January 4, 2024.  

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