A new report by Amnesty International has warned that Facebook and Google’s omnipresent surveillance of billions of people poses a systemic threat to human rights. Is it time for a radical transformation of the tech giants’ core business model?
Produced by: Juliet Jacobs Presented by: Tee Shiao Eek, Juliet Jacobs, Sharmilla Ganesan
Foong Cheng Leong is the Partner at Foong Cheng Leong & Co. He focuses in the areas of Intellectual Property and Information Technology, Cyberlaw, Franchising, Data Privacy and Gaming Law. Cheng Leong is also a registered trademark, industrial design and patent agent. He is the Chairman of the Kuala Lumpur Bar Information Technology Committee and a member of the Malaysian Bar Intellectual Property Committee. He regularly assists the KL Bar and the Malaysian Bar on matters regarding Intellectual Property, Internet Law and Data Protection.
“When I first joined Lee Hishammuddin and Allen & Gledhill as a pupil, I was assigned to the Intellectual Property (IP) department and I got retained in the department after my pupillage. I didn’t have the opportunity to try other practice areas although I wanted to do litigation. However, IP was interesting to me because I got the opportunity to do corporate IP involving trademark, copyright, trade secrets, patents, and other intangible rights for many services and products, as well as IP litigation where it involves dispute matters. A senior partner once reviewed my CV and saw that I could build websites and suggested that I try out Information Technology and Cyber Law. I did and I’ve not looked back since. He also encouraged me to start writing articles on it and contribute them to the Bar website.
IP is my bread and butter. In my firm, we do a lot of IP and trademark registration, patent, industrial design and copyright matters. Our work includes protecting clients who get sued for infringement, registering and protecting their IP overseas, franchising and licensing. To practice IP, you need to understand the nature of a commercial transaction, intangible rights and basic contract law. IP has a lot of aspects to it: you can be a corporate IP lawyer, litigator, criminal where you represent people who are charged with counterfeiting, and even an administrator where you ensure the IP is registered. It is a very established area; we have IP cases dating to the 1800s. Even in China, there are trademark cases dating 300-400 years back. There are many materials that you can read.
IT and Cyber Law is a new area of law and it’s very interesting because it comes with all sort of issues. For example, we have been asked to file court action to discover identity of a person behind a social media account, advise client on how to take down private photos of themselves, how to block a website or close it, and even getting Facebook to share information of a deceased person.
For you to excel at IT and Cyber Law, it’s important to understand technology. You need to understand how computers and networks work, how the technology works, what is an IP address, what is a timestamp, you need to understand all the tech jargons, and these are the things that you don’t get to read in a law book. You also have to be tech-savvy. I had a case where the client was charged for deleting the database of his company. He said he didn’t do it, but evidence indicated that he did. I managed to figure out that his IP address at the time was dynamic, and that anyone could access his account from anywhere. From there, we cross-examined and the internet service provider and they confirmed that to be true. We also found that his computer was stored by a third party at that point of time, so he couldn’t have done it.
From young, I was interested in how electronics worked and how things connected to one another. I used to take my CPU apart and install it again. I even took apart my parents’ video cassette recorder and alarm clock, I also learnt how to build a computer network. It helped me to understand how electronics work, for example, why there is a chip, transistor, or power supply. From there I understand that if I want to connect to the internet, I need a modem. If I want to build a network, I need a hub, and if I want to store data outside the hub, I need a server. Back then, we didn’t even have Google to search for all these!
I think the law should catch up with technology. For example, how do you get information of people who defame you online? People are using all sort of avenue to hide themselves and they use servers and providers outside of Malaysia. How do we ensure we can make it easier to get information? One thing we can do for this is to get a Treaty signed by all countries. For example, if the legal system requires a citizen of a certain country to provide information, the government should be able to release it based on certain safeguards. So far, we don’t have such law and it’s very difficult and expensive to get data because everyone is very protective of their data. Only the rich could afford to get the information.
I think it’s important for young lawyers to write a lot of articles, participate in talks and be out there to show their skills. Personally, I like to share my knowledge and information through articles. As a lawyer, we should share information with our peers, we shouldn’t be stingy because the more you share the information, the more we will push for law reforms, then more people will know about it and it allows more people to seek compensation if they are the victims or aggrieved parties.”
Foong Cheng Leong is an Advocate and Solicitor of the High Court of Malaya and also a registered Malaysian trade mark, industrial designs and patent agent.
He had served the Malaysian Bar and Kuala Lumpur Bar in the following capacities:-
1. Kuala Lumpur Bar Committee (2013 to 2020)
2. Chairperson of the Kuala Lumpur Information Technology (2012 to 2020)
3. Co-Chairperson of the Bar Council Ad-Hoc Committee on Personal Data Protection (2013 to 2016)
4. Co-Chairperson of the Bar Council Intellectual Property Committee (2019 to present)
5. Co-Chairperson of the Bar Council Information Technology and Cyberlaws Committee (2015 to 2017)
He is also the author of the following books-
1. Compendium of Malaysian Intellectual Property Cases consisting of the following two volumes
a. Vol 1- Trade Marks