Bar Assn calls for data-protection policy
The Jamaica Bar Association (JBA) was among three entities that made submissions to the Joint Select Committee of Parliament deliberating the Data Protection Bill of 2017, the Government's companion legislation to the National Identification System (NIDS).
Nicole Foga, in her presentation on behalf of the association, said that the JBA has long championed the call for Jamaica to have data-protection legislation as an important legal and regulatory tool, which would facilitate the transition into a fully fledged knowledge-based society. Raising several concerns, she said the data-protection policy was urgently needed.
"Excited as we are to see the Data Protection Bill laid before this honourable body, we are very concerned at both the macro and micro levels, with some of the provisions," Foga said in her presentation. "Our first concern is the absence of a clearly articulated data-protection policy."
COULD ADDRESS SEVERAL ISSUES
According to Foga, a data-protection policy would contextualise the bill, in relation to the Telecommunications, Cyber Crimes, Interception of Communications, Access to Information, Electronic Transactions, and NIDS acts. She said that such a policy could address the Government's views on where the balance lies between freedom of information, open government data, and the right to use technology to improve business efficiency and effectiveness, with the right to protection of privacy of other property and of communication guaranteed by the Constitution.
Another area of concern was the expense of compliance with the act. Foga said that the strenuous obligations on data controllers "in the current form of the bill would significantly impact an entire society and necessitated a cultural shift in how we obtain, process, store, and even delete personal information".
As a result, she said that the existence of a data- protection policy would underscore the thinking and need for the act to have an information commissioner, the accountability of the commissioner, and the importance of voluntary industry codes and use of self-regulation.
Such a policy, she said, would explain why Jamaica is modelling the 2017 with the 1998 United Kingdom legislation, which has been updated and is going through major changes.
"We believe also that a policy could better explain the Government's decision to model Jamaica's data-protection legislation and United Kingdom-European Union standards and principles as opposed to protection standards and principles used in the United States, which is Jamaica's largest trading partner, and the country to which Jamaica transfers the most personal data ... , " she told the joint select committee.