No two standards for data protection across public and private sectors

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Forum Reply: No two standards for data protection across public and private sectors


We would like to clarify two points in Mr Hariz Baharudin’s commentary in The Straits Times (Breaking down the double standards of data protection, Dec 19).


First, public officers are not given lower penalties than individuals in the private sector for failing to meet data protection obligations.


Under the Public Sector (Governance) Act, public officers are subject to a maximum of two years’ jail term and/or $5,000 fine, should they recklessly disclose data without authorisation, misuse data for a gain, or re-identify anonymised data.


For the private sector, the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) does not stipulate penalties for individuals for offences related to data protection.


The penalties mentioned in the article, “Individuals acting in the capacity of organisations who have breached the PDPA can be fined up to $10,000 and jailed for a maximum of three years”, do not, as a matter of fact, apply to such offences.


Second, there are no two standards for data protection across the public and private sectors. Thus, the following statement in the article gives the wrong impression: “Having two sets of rules – one for the public sector and one for the private sector – has been Singapore’s longstanding approach to data protection.”


There is a different set of rules for data management for the public sector to enable public agencies to use data as one government for service delivery to the public. As far as data protection is concerned, we have consistently been aligning the public and private sector standards.


Data is the lifeblood of the digital economy and a digital government. Matters related to data management and data protection need to be clearly explained so that the public may better appreciate the issues.


More information on the recommendations of the Public Sector Data Security Review Committee can be found here:


Quek Su Lynn

Director, Government Data Office

Smart Nation and Digital Government Office

Prime Minister’s Office


Last updated on 14 May 2020