MSJ writes to AG on Data Protection, Cyber Crime bills
Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) leader David Abdulah has written to Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi regarding the status of the Data Protection Act #3 of 2011, as well as concerns about Clause 8 of the Cybercrime Bill 2017 which is now before the Parliament.
In the letter dated April 3, Abdulah, while congratulating Al-Rawi for announcing an audit into all state entities including government Ministries with respect to the Cambridge Analytica/SCL/Aggregate IQ issue, pointed out to the AG that in May 2017, the MSJ had publicly called on “the Attorney General and the Minister of National Security to immediately launch an investigation into this affair and make the findings public” as “this was a matter of vital importance”.
The MSJ says that this is a case of better late than never.
With regard to the Data Protection Act of 2011, which was assented to on June 22, 2011 and partially proclaimed on January 6, 2012, the MSJ leader pointed to Clause 4 of the Act which states “The object of this Act is to ensure that protection is afforded to an individual’s right to privacy and the right to maintain sensitive personal information as private and personal”.
He further stated that “had this Act been fully in force it would have provided even more protection against data-mining and micro-targeting that was allegedly committed in Trinidad and Tobago by CA/SCL/AIQ/Palantir. It would also have consequently resulted in possible criminal offences being committed by persons and/or firms be they nationals or foreigners”.
Abdulah said that to the best of his knowledge, no such Office of Information Commissioner has been established nor has there been any appointment of an Information Commissioner.
He called on the Attorney General to provide a status report on the implementation of the Act and the plans by the Government for its full implementation.
The MSJ Leader raised one further issue with respect to the Data Protection Act, a concern expressed by then Senator Al-Rawi during the debate on the Bill in the Senate.
This issue is the protection of the freedom of the press and of whistle-blowers who may obtain data that is considered “private” under the Act, and therefore could be investigated and prosecuted.
Agreeing with the need to protect the media in doing investigative journalism and also protecting whistle-blowers without whom the fight against corruption is weakened; Abdulah asked the AG the following pointed questions: “Can you therefore state what is your Government’s policy with respect to amendments to the Data Protection Act to remedy these problems and/or whether the long promised Whistle-Blower Bill would take precedence over the Data Protection Act?”
In the same vein of the need to protect the freedom of the press and of the rights of investigative journalists and whistle-blowers, the MSJ Political Leader stated the Party’s “objection to Clause 8 of the Cybercrime Bill 2017” which states:
"Clause 8 (1): A person who intentionally and without lawful excuse or justification accesses a computer system without authorisation, or by exceeding authorised access, and obtains computer data commits an offence and is liable—
(a) on summary conviction to a fine of one hundred thousand dollars and imprisonment for two years; or (b) on conviction on indictment to a fine of five hundred thousand dollars and imprisonment for three years.
(2) A person who intentionally and without lawful excuse or justification receives or gains access to computer data knowing the same to have been stolen or obtained pursuant to subsection (1) commits an offence and is liable—
(a) on summary conviction to a fine of one hundred thousand dollars and imprisonment for two years; or (b) on conviction on indictment to a fine of five hundred thousand dollars and imprisonment for three years."
Abdulah concluded by once again referencing what the Attorney General had stated as a Senator in the Upper House in 2011.
“It is the view of the MSJ that Clause 8 of the Cybercrime Bill 2017 will result in the very same attacks on the freedom of the press and the scaring off of whistle-blowers to which you spoke in the 2011 debate on the Data Protection Bill. What is applicable then is equally applicable now and “that that is to unleash a draconian state”.
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