THE Data Protection Act 2011 is under review. Several members of a parliamentary committee on Friday urged the proclamation of the act, which prevents the unauthorised use of personal information, but were told it covers a field that is evolving so rapidly that it needs updating.
The Joint Select Committee (JSC) on Finance and Legal Affairs interviewed officials of the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) led by permanent secretary Maurice Suite in a virtual hearing.
JSC chairman Hazel Thompson-Ahye said the act was passed ten years ago and now impacts everyone.
"We are talking about protecting your data, which is really protecting your right to privacy which is an entrenched part of the Constitution, your right to privacy." She said we live in a digital environment with more and more in the hands of the government and other officials. "We need to have that data protected. All kinds of documents, photos, videotapes, machine readable passports, birth certificates, a number of pieces of data which impact us - your educational records, criminal records, medical records, financial transactions, DNA."
Suite, in his opening remarks, said, "In December 2019 the then Ministry of Communication was asked by the Ministry of Trade and Industry to collaborate on amending the act."
He said the trade ministry was funded by an Inter American Development Bank (IDB) loan and hoped to amend the act so as to harmonise the ministry's single business window, TT Biz Link, with the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation to ensure a smooth flow of data in international trade transactions.
Suite said a hired consultant would draft legislation regulations by June, with a finalised proposal by August.
Thompson-Ahye said, "I notice that a lot of the updates have happened quite recently. Maybe the buttons have been pushed, but we are happy to hear there has been some progress. We hope this very important piece of legislation will come on board very soon."
Suite said a consultation was ongoing but the general principles underlying the act would not change. JSC members Marvin Gonzalez and Keith Scotland urged a hastening of the review. Suite however said he did not think it beneficial to try to compress the review into just two months.
He said the OPM would get a report on the status of the review by October 15 and then that to Cabinet.