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PDPC launches public consultation for telco, real estate sectors

The Personal Data Protection Commission has released two sets of proposed advisory guidelines to help the real estate and telecommunications sectors with the interpretation and application of the law in actual scenarios.

SINGAPORE: The real estate and telecommunications sectors have received more clarity on how the Public Data Protection Act could affect them when it comes into effect in July.

The Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) has released two sets of proposed advisory guidelines to help with the interpretation and application of the law in actual scenarios.

These are the first sector-specific guidelines to be introduced, and they have been put up for public consultation.

If a person leaves his telephone number in the guestbook of a showroom at a new property launch, can real estate agencies then use it for telemarketing?

Under the new Personal Data Protection Act, the answer is no, unless "clear and unambiguous consent" has been given.

This is just one of the areas clarified in advisory guidelines proposed for the real estate sector.

What constitutes the application of Consent Obligation in a property transaction is also covered.

For example, it was proposed that a salesperson should obtain consent from a seller to disclose his personal data to facilitate a potential sale.

The Personal Data Protection Act was passed in Parliament in 2012.

PDPC member Aileen Chia said: "We do receive queries and requests for clarifications from time to time, so we thought it'd be good to provide sector-specific examples.

“We hope to provide greater clarity for businesses that (would) help them better comply with the law. And with that, consumers can actually benefit (through the organisation's better compliance with the law)."

Property agencies said the guidelines will help address day-to-day operations of a real estate salesperson, and provide a standardised way on how to interpret the law.

But they also hope some suggestions can be re-looked at -- such as why estate agencies need to get the consent of salespersons before they can publish the names and photographs of the "Top 100 Salespeople" on their websites.

Eugene Lim, key executive officer at ERA Realty Network, said: "These 100 salespersons work for us (and through their employment) it's actually a form of recognition for them.

"So in this aspect, we are quite puzzled as to why we must seek the approval of each and every one of the salespersons before we can display their photograph as a form of recognition.

“The photos are actually available as public information on the CEA (Council for Estate Agencies) public registry. So actually, it's the same photograph, same set of information. But why the need for us to obtain their approval?"

A set of guidelines has also been proposed for the telecommunications sector.

One of the issues addressed is how to inform pre-paid card users what their personal information is being used for. After all, no contract is being signed.

Squeezing all that information onto a small pre-paid card is also a challenge.

Hence, the Commission suggested telcos could briefly state the purposes of collecting personal information on the pre-paid card, while referring the individual to their website.

A sign can also be put up at the counter of retail outlets selling the pre-paid card.

In the case of mobile roaming, telcos may have to provide the telephone number of those -- foreigners or tourists -- using roaming services in Singapore to their home operators for billing purposes.

The proposed guidelines said no consent is required as the telco is acting as a data intermediary.

All three telcos in Singapore said in statements to Channel NewsAsia that they are studying the guidelines and will provide its comments in due course.

The Personal Data Protection Act will come into full effect in July.

The Commission said it is working with other sectors, like voluntary welfare organisations, private schools and banks, to see if similar advisory guidelines are required. 

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