Shutdown! - Government suspends securities search engine
AMID public outcry that private information could be accessed from the National Security Interests Registry, Anthony Hylton, the minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, yesterday said that the State had not breached any privacy laws, even as he stressed that the information, which people believe to be private, was being accessed through Internet platforms such as Google.
"There is no constitutional issue here. This is no different from the titles office. As we talk about going online with a number of things, more and more of our information might now be public. There is no secrecy. Google has everything, everybody's name and where they live and all these things," the minister said.
Hylton, yesterday, ordered a temporary shutdown of the search engine on the website to "give us some time to reflect to see (if) we have done enough to make sure there are any safeguard elements that can be put in place". His actions followed a Gleaner exposé, which pointed to the fact that information was made public, a story which caused widespread reaction.
He said the move was precautionary, even as he stressed that the Securities Interest in Personal Property (SIPP) law, which gave rise to the registry, will mean a fundamental change in the way in which access to credit is dealt with. He said access to credit was a major constraint to the development of business, particularly of micro, small and medium enterprises.
Despite the pluses, Hylton admitted that, in this new age of transparency, systems like the securities registry "can be abused".
"I want to make sure that what we have does not allow itself for abuse," the minister said, while adding that he would be consulting with stakeholders as to the way forward.
Several legislators reacted with surprise, claiming they had no knowledge that the registry would reveal personal information. At least one attorney has suggested that it is in breach of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, on the question of privacy.
Audley Shaw, the opposition spokesman on finance, told The Gleaner yesterday that he understood the intent of the regime, arguing that it was expected within the context of a developing economy.
He said, however, that "the ability of anybody to just go on the website and find out every detail and every cornerstone of everybody's personal business, seems to me, on the face of it, to be an unwarranted invasion of one's right to privacy".
The opposition spokesman said he welcomed Hylton's announcement of a review and said the regulations should be brought to Parliament for scrutiny.
Hylton, however, said that "even having heard the concerns, we believe there is no need for any amendment of the bill because the bill itself requires basic information, some of which are mandatory, and, in any event, it requires the consent of the persons (for disclosure) for the person to access credit".
"I am not going to take any unilateral actions and neither am I going to be spooked or alarmed into any response. We knew that this would be disruptive in some sense and that people will have to become accustomed to this new piece of legislation, but we are satisfied that this legislation itself is appropriate and, if followed by the users, should satisfy the concerns," the minister said.
The SIPP was passed by Parliament to allow for movable assets to be used as collateral.
When a person buys personal property on hire purchase, or uses personal property as security for a loan or another type of credit-providing transaction, the secured creditor will, probably, register details of the security interest in the National Security Interests in Personal Property Registry. Those details consist of a debtor's personal details, including name, address, and a description of the personal property.
Regulations in support of the SIPP allow for the register to maintain certain records relating to personal property. The regulations say the registrar shall maintain the register in a state of availability for public inspection, including the capability to view any registration notice filed in the register by inputting a search of any information, such as the name of the debtor.
In the case of a motor vehicle, the serial number of the motor vehicles are made public, and in the case of fixtures, the identification information relating to the land is disclosed.