Wed, Apr 28, 2010 - Page 1 News List

Media exempt from personal data rules

AMENDMENTS A decision to allow media to collect data on individuals when acting in the public interest gives rise to a new problem: How to define the ‘public interest’?

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The legislature passed an amendment to the Computer-Processed Personal Data Protection Act (電腦保護個人資料處理法) yesterday, exempting media from having to inform and seek consent from individuals before collecting and reporting personal information.

Legislators also agreed to change the title of the act to the Personal Data Protection Act (個人資料保護法).

Under the act, members of the media do not have to inform and obtain the consent of individuals before collecting or reporting their personal information when acting in the public interest.

“The Personal Data Protection Act has a very important spirit. That is, personal data should only be collected for specific purposes. Take the media, for instance. The information they collect should be used in news reports. The exemption will not apply to the marketing or sale of personal information,” said Chin Jeng-shyang (覃正祥), ­director of the Department of Legal Affairs at the Ministry of Justice, after the amendment was passed.

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party jointly proposed that the legislature reconsider the amendment after it passed a second reading last week.

Under the original version, the media, political commentators or elected representatives would be required to inform and seek consent from individuals before collecting or published information about them, including their name, date of birth, ID number, occupation, medical records, genetic information and details about their sex life.

However, the bill came under fire from media organizations, which feared the new regulations could undermine freedom of the press.

On Thursday afternoon, the KMT caucus dropped its support for the bill and agreed to postpone its third reading, which had been scheduled to be held the next day.

The amendment that cleared the legislative floor yesterday stipulates that non-governmental organizations or individuals are allowed to search and collect generally accessible data about individuals when acting in the public interest.

In other words, Netizens who launch a campaign to identify individuals involved in violations such as animal abuse would not be considered violators.

Chin told reporters that the ministry would seek to establish a more thorough definition of unclear terms in the act, such as “public interest” or “generally accessible data” and decide how to regulate political commentators’ use and collection of personal data while protecting individual privacy.

The amendment also exempts people who post pictures or videos taken with friends or family during gatherings or at public places on Internet sites such as Facebook from having to obtain the consent of the individuals involved, as long as no other personal information is revealed.

Jason Ho (何吉森), director of the communications content department at the National Communications Commission, said yesterday the commission welcomed the legislature’s decision to exempt news media in the amended act.

Ho, however, said that defining the term “public interest” was difficult. He said the commission was more likely to consult the ministry when executing the act and would work on a case-by-case basis.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SHELLEY SHAN

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