I was asked by Malaysiakini to comment on the availability of a person’s identity card number to other members of the public, particularly, by the Government to the members of the members of the public.
Open data convenient for public to access
In Malaysia, it is not difficult to obtain another person’s IC number as it is needed for various forms issued by the public and private sectors. It might even be on display on a company’s working pass for employees. Now, even despatch riders ask for an IC number to confirm the identity of the consignee.
Another lawyer, Foong Cheng Leong, said the government’s stand on the matter seems to be to allow free access to others’ data for certain purposes based on the personal data published on government websites.
“Take traffic summonses as an example, banks or potential second-hand car buyers can check if a vehicle has pending summonses,” he noted.
Foong, who is the former co-chairperson of the Bar Council Ad-Hoc Committee on Personal Data Protection (2013 to 2016), said many companies also rely on public information on these websites to work. For example, a lawyer can verify whether someone’s name and IC number are correct.
“Open data websites are convenient for the public and companies, they can get information without paperwork and without the hassle and cost of writing to the relevant departments, which usually takes some time. This may free up time for government agencies to do other work,” he said.
Multi-factor authentication for protection
Several experts have suggested that a multi-factor authentication system and accounts registration be implemented to better protect privacy.
Meanwhile, Foong said it is difficult to strike a balance between privacy and the right to information, but there should be some barriers such as registering an account with full details or paying a fee before getting access to data.
“The rule of thumb is that if one submits to do something of a public nature e.g. conduct business, sue in court, certainly his or her personal data should be made public to ensure transparency or to protect the public.
“This is so the person is traceable if they commit fraud,” he added.
This question follows the recent judgement by the courts to hold Malaysiakini responsible for comments made by readers on its online portal. Lawyer Foong Cheng Leong helps us figure out whether individuals could also be held legally accountable.
Produced by: Kelvin Yee Presented by: Sharmilla Ganesan, Lee Chwi Lynn
Malaysiakini and its editor-in-chief are being cited for contempt of court over several readers’ comments on an article. We reach out to Foong Cheng Leong to find out what the law says about holding media portals accountable over comments made by readers.
Produced by: Tasha Fusil Presented by: Lee Chwi Lynn
KUALA LUMPUR: Internet users whose accounts are hacked into will be presumed guilty for unlawful online posts by the actual perpetrators under recent amendments to the Evidence Act, something that is being criticised as absurd.
The Evidence (Amendment) (No 2) Act 2012 will reportedly hold Internet users liable for any content posted through their registered networks or data processing devices.
“For example, if someone parks outside your house and uses your Wifi to post (illegal content online),” said KL Bar Council IT committee co-chairman Foong Cheng Leong.
Participants are all ears at the forum.
He was speaking during the “Section 114A Evidence Act: Crime-busting or Online Control?” forum at the KL-Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall recently.
Foong said laws presuming guilt have always been around, including for individuals who were deemed to be traffickers if they were arrested with a certain amount of drugs.
“The Dangerous Drugs Act (discourages) people from carrying drugs. Will this Act (discourage) people from using the Internet?” he asked.
Center for Independent Journalism (CIJ) director Jac SM Kee said the Act was illogical as victims who sought help after their accounts had been hacked or report the crime to police may find themselves behind bars.
Even if someone else posts an offensive comment on a person’s Facebook wall, the latter could be found guilty.
“Business will be affected. If they provide Wifi (and offensive items are posted through their connection), they are responsible,” said BFM Media Sdn Bhd producer Jeff Sandhu.
He said if restaurants in the city are required by law to provide free Wifi and their Internet connections are open to abuse by irresponsible users, business owners will find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place.
Digital News Asia executive editor A Asohan said the Act put average Internet users at the mercy of tech-savvy users who could abuse the former’s unsecure Internet connections.
He said an analyst from investment firm Mackenzie traced 4.1 per cent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) coming from online activities.
“You want to create a high income nation, this is going to put damper on it. You can’t have an Internet community when people fear to go on the Internet,” he added.
Following from the forum “Section 114A Evidence Act: Crime-busting or Online Control?” organised by Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), Malaysiakini reported the following:-
WiFi providers caught between Evidence Act, DBKL
By Koh Jun Lin
Operators of the bigger Kuala Lumpur eateries might as well surrender to the authorities once Section 114(a) of the Evidence Act takes effect.
It would be too risky for them to offer WiFi services to patrons, said BFM radio producer Jeff Sandhu (left) .
This is especially in view of KL City Hall’s announcement in January that food operators occupying premises bigger than 120 sq m must offer WiFi services as a prerequisite for licence application and renewal.
“If you are running a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur and, by law, you are required to have public WiFi, you might as well walk to jail or walk to the cops and say ‘Arrest me!’” said Sandhu.
Sandhu, who produces BFM’s ‘Tech Talk’ segment, was a panelist at a forum last night to discuss the impact of Section 114(a) of the Act.
The amendment would presume that the owner, editor or administrator of a website on which any posting appears – or the owner of the Internet connection or equipment with which the posting was made – is also the person who made the posting, unless it is proven otherwise.
Another panelist, Digital News Asia co-founder A Asohan (right) , said Malaysia has a thriving Internet business scene.
Investors believe this could outpace that of Singapore, but the amendments would put a damper on it, he said.
“You can’t have an Internet economy when people fear for the Internet. You can’t have a high-income nation when people fear to express themselves,” he said.
He also quoted management consultancy firm McKinsey & Company as saying that Internet businesses contribute 4.1 percent to Malaysia’s GDP.
“You want to create a high-income nation. How do you do that? You need have people who are intelligent, educated in the right way – not merely drilled in the basics of science, maths and (who) just answer the questions,” Asohan said.
“A lot of our students are finding this extra knowledge through the Internet. They are willing to express themselves through the Internet… you need to get out of the school system to learn all these things.”
Responding to moderator and The Nut Graph editor Jacqueline Ann Surin, he said online media platforms would be the first victims of this law.
“Let’s face it, we’ve got how many thousand cybertroopers out there? They could just go and disturb all these sites. Now they can have a field day, go into Free Malaysia Today, post something, and the police would say, ‘Ha, got you!’”
‘Easy to forge identities’
Sandhu pointed out it is very easy to forge identities online, and that there is even a 10-step guide available online on how to impersonate another person’s email address.
“It puts the average Internet user at the mercy of the unscrupulous tech-savvy user. It is shielding identity thieves and hackers,” Asohan said.
“The victims are now the guilty, and there is no onus for the government to go after those who steal your identity, post things in your name, hack accounts, do stuff with it.”
KL Bar IT committee co-chairperson Foong Cheng Leong said it would be difficult to handle even the “rebuttable presumptions” once a person is charged.
“You go to court (with a civil suit). The fees are at least RM50,000-100,000 and you are there to defend against a High Court case as a normal, middle class, working citizen,” he said.
“How are you going to, first, get a lawyer. You also need technical assistance from someone who has technical abilities to look at all these modems, all these routers, and all these devices that you have to prove that it (the offensive posting) didn’t come from you.”
Foong said this would not even be possible if it were a criminal proceeding because the modus operandi of the police would be to confiscate the equipment.
“Once they take it from you, how are you access your own PC and show that ‘at this time I did not access anything’? The thing is lying somewhere in a exhibit room,” he said.
Foong said there is a need to deal with Internet trolls (people engaging in anti-social behaviour online), but the new law is not up to the task.
“We need something more technical. We need expertise to trace people online. The law is not the way to solve this. It is simply putting the blame on someone. In Chinese, we call this ‘eat the dead cat (being a scapegoat)’,” he said.
Centre for Independent Journalism director Jac SM Kee said the new law restricts freedom of expression and promotes a culture of surveillance. The media watchdog has started an online petition against the amendments.
I was interviewed by Malaysiakini in their podcast recently on the Evidence (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2012.
For our 15th Middle Malaysia podcast, we speak to Foong Cheng Leong, co-chair of the KL Bar IT Committee, about the new amendments to the Evidence Act. It was Foong who first broke the news about the new amendments via an article on the LoyarBurok blog.
He says the article at first didn’t garner much attention. That all changed when theSun published a front-page article based on it. Now, everyone’s talking about the serious implications of the new amendments.
Foong gives a broad overview of what the new law is all about and explains why it should be of grave concern for all those who use the Internet. He also gives his opinion on different social media scenarios where the Evidence Act could be applied.
His concerns, however, are not just on how this new law could affect criminal and politically-charged cases but also civil cases.
Lastly, he gives an example of how this law could affect cases concerning election offences and gives a real-life example of a past case that probably would have turned out very differently had the new law been in place then.
Foong, who often comments about IT issues, is totally against this law and is working towards having it repealed.
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