Personal data of public complainants disclosed to 'set the record straight': Janil Puthucheary

Personal data of public complainants disclosed to 'set the record straight': Janil Puthucheary

CPF Maxwell Service Centre
CPF Maxwell Service Centre. (Photo: Central Provident Fund Board)

SINGAPORE: When public complaints or petitions are inaccurate, government agencies may disclose personal data to "set the record straight", said Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary on Monday (Feb 3).

But the personal data disclosed will be "limited in scope", he said in Parliament, citing three principles guiding the Government's disclosure of personal data.

First, government agencies will disclose personal data to ensure that clarifications are clear and indisputable, he said.

Second, agencies will disclose specific information to give a full picture of the case and allow relevant individuals to challenge the Government's account of the case, if need be.

Third, to disclose only relevant data to the case.

The Government might sometimes disclose identities even when the publicised complaints are anonymous, added Dr Puthucheary, "to remove ambiguity in the Government's statement of the facts and settle any doubts over the matter conclusively in the minds of the public".

This comes after the Central Provident Fund Board (CPF Board) released the personal details of a woman in a statement. The statement was a response to an article by The Online Citizen (TOC) about a woman suffering from lupus who was petitioning the authorities for access to her MediSave and Special Account CPF Funds. The article used a pseudonym.

TOC later put up another article reporting that the woman had written to CPF Board questioning the release of her full name on Facebook.

In a supplementary question, Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Walter Theseira asked if the Government would consider a protocol for agencies to release their statements with the individual's consent.

Dr Puthucheary said: "These types of public declarations, whether anonymised or not, are going to be unusual in nature. There is something about the case so the complainant or the interaction which doesn't quite fall into standard operating procedure nor lend itself to a protocol."

He added that it would be inappropriate to constrain the agencies' response to inaccurate or false public statements, and may open itself to manipulation, ambiguity and disinformation.

If citizens want to seek redress for unfair public disclosure, Dr Puthucheary said that they can approach their MPs or even seek a public discourse.

He added that this is not meant to discourage citizens from seeking redress for their complaints.

"It is merely that should a complaint occur in the public space and as a result of that complaint, the public has been misinformed, inaccuracies have been stated, then those inaccuracies need to be stated in the public in a way that is unambiguous and robustly explains the facts to everyone," he said.

Source: CNA/cc(cy)

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