UPDATED: Information Commissioner’s power questioned again!
The National Identification System (NIDS) secretariat yesterday raised concerns that the information commissioner, under the Data Protection Act, will have powers to access the personal and identity data of individuals, despite stated commitments that it will be protected.
Jacqueline Lynch Stewart, during a submission before the joint select committee of Parliament deliberating on the Data Protection Act, said NIDS wholeheartedly welcomed and supported the establishment of the Data Protection Bill.
She told the committee that when the National Identification and Registration Act (NIRA) was passed last year, it was tabled with the responsibility to collect personal data from citizens of the diaspora and those who reside in Jamaica.
However, the NIDS team said that the powerful Information Commission - the creature created by the bill and which will be the guardian of data - appeared to have "powers that will have access to our data, the data of NIRA, without going through the courts".
It was for this reason that Lynch Stewart said the secretariat felt compelled to bring the issue to the attention of the committee, which met Monday, given that "citizens have been advised that their data at NIRA be protected".
Identity information from NIRA can be disclosed only in two ways - by individual authorisation or a court order.
UNCLEAR ABOUT RIGHTS
"The concern that we have is that it is not exactly clear what persons' rights are when they come into an entity like NIRA and we are very concerned that the commissioner will want to see the personal and identity data of the individuals," explained Lynch Stewart.
She said there was no objection to the commissioner checking systems to ensure that correct processes and standards are upheld. She wants the role of the commissioner properly defined, to state his role during an assessment.
According to her, it was important that nothing being proposed leads to any distrust. The issue was one of four concerns raised by NIDS.
NOTE: An earlier version of this story had cited Jacqueline Lynch Campbell. That was in correct. It should have been Jacqueline Lynch Stewart.