HELP to protect personal data

Data protectors: Darmain (left) and Jaspal will play a part in the crafting of national policies.

IN a digital age where smart devices and applications have become necessities in the lives of many, there have been growing concerns on data privacy and protection.

Now, thanks to a grant from the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), a team from HELP University’s Faculty of Law and Government will be conducting research that aims to make recommendations for the creation of a governance framework for the protection of personal data used in the development of artificial intelligence (AI) systems.

Team leader Dr Jaspal Kaur Sadhu Singh expressed her elation at receiving the 2021 Digital Society Research Grant for the six-month research, which comes under the focus area of “Digital Citizenship and Cyber Wellness”.

She will be assisted by co-researcher and adjunct fellow Darmain Segaran, who is also the faculty alumnus.

“We are overjoyed that our grant application has been approved. It is a huge opportunity for Darmain and me to conduct a project that will make a contribution and provide direction to the crafting of national policies,” said Jaspal in a press release dated July 5.

Jaspal also extended her appreciation to the university’s Research Management Centre director Assoc Prof Edmund Oh Joo Vin, for his support in the preparation and submission of the grant application, as well as for organising a mock pitching session with other researchers at the university.

According to Jaspal, data privacy laws were not designed to provide for the processing of personal data for inferential analytics or automated decision-making resulting from the use of AI systems.

“Inferences drawn from big data, which are large data sets, do not fall within the sphere of traditional principles of the individual’s right to privacy,” she said.

The research will employ a comprehensive doctrinal investigation comprising the identification and examination of the Personal Data Protection Act 2010 (the PDPA 2010), which is the current legislative governance framework.

In addition, it will carry out comparative legal research to explore and assess how legal frameworks in other jurisdictions have adopted big data analytics to the existing data privacy legal regimes, or managed the risks of such practice.

A survey will also be carried out to determine the extent of good data governance practices employed by deployers of AI systems.

The survey will be undertaken by the team’s collaborator Peter Kua of BIGIT, the organisation that published the 2019 and 2020 editions of a book entitled Malaysia AI Blueprint.It is hoped that the research will achieve the objectives of examining the compatibility of the data privacy principles found in the PDPA 2010 with the use of big data in AI systems, as well as identifying gaps within the framework by determining whether additional governance regulations are required to manage data privacy risks.

As part of the effort, the team will be recruiting a research assistant from undergraduates pursuing the university’s Bachelor of Laws programme to join in the research.

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