‘Use technology to protect personal information’

  • Nation
  • Saturday, 23 May 2020

Attorney General Tan Sri Tommy Thomas posing with Cuban Ambassador Ibete Fernandez Hernandez and her husband Jose Luis Camero Hernandez. At far right is British Council English Language Centre board of governors chairman S. Radhakrishnan..

PETALING JAYA: With privacy and safety issues being a concern with customers having to give personal details when they dine and shop, suggestions have been made to improve the SOP put in place.

Lawyer Srividhya Ganapathy said the authorities should come up with a better system using available technology to protect people from potential harassment and danger.

She said although she felt reluctant to give out her personal information to strangers, these were unusual times which required public co-operation.

“We have to minimise the number of people we are divulging information of and simple methods such as filling an app and generating a QR code to show to restaurants before entering should be explored nationwide, ” she added.

This way, she said, the information was registered to a system that belonged to the Health Ministry or other authorities, and was not given out freely to restaurants, supermarkets or security guards at the locations.

Srividhya said she believed that people understood the necessity of sharing their personal information for the purpose of Covid-19 contact tracing as this was a long-term risk.

“However, there is a short-term implication and danger such as stalking, which exposes women to danger, ” she added.

Founder member and former president of the Medico-Legal Society of Malaysia S. Radhakrishnan (pic) also called for tighter confidentiality measures to be put in place.

He said while the ministry’s measures to contain the spread of Covid-19 was commendable, the SOP on personal information to be shared should be improved.

The government announced that all food and beverage outlets could open for dine-ins provided they strictly followed conditions set by the authorities under the conditional MCO from May 4, which include the registration of customers.

“Many people are still afraid to dine in but the few who do are required to give out their personal information freely.

“Many are afraid that their privacy will be lost and somebody will abuse the information they give.”

There have also been instances where customers of takeaways, too, were required to provide their personal information.

Radhakrishnan, a retired legal consultant, said the practice of asking customers to write their names and contact numbers in an exercise book gave room for the information to be passed on to others.

He suggested that the SOP be improved by providing customers with a single sheet of paper to fill in their particulars which is later placed in a sealed box that can only be opened by health officials.

He said he had received telephone calls from scammers in the past who knew his personal details.

“How did they get my house telephone number, and how did they know where I lived as well?”

Petaling Jaya Coffee Shop Association (PJSA) president Cheah Poo Kuang said his members allowed customers to choose between writing down their particulars in a book and scanning a QR code through the SELangkah app introduced by the Selangor government.

“It is true that some customers were initially reluctant to follow the SOP but we assured them that we are doing it under the government’s orders for their safety, and we cannot allow them to enter the shop if they do not adhere to the rules.

“We also allow them to write down their nickname or surname if they are uncomfortable giving out their real names, ” he said.

Cheah estimated that about 40% opt to use the mobile application instead of writing down their names and contact details.

“We make sure that the book that contains the customer details is only handled by the proprietor or restaurant manager, which is kept in a secure place after use.”

Although the government has released two Covid-19 related apps MySejahtera and MyTrace, with the latter allowing contact tracing via Bluetooth signals, the applications are yet to be used nationwide.

Countries such as Singapore, China, Brunei, Britain, South Korea, Australia and at least 23 others have also used Bluetooth-powered contact tracing apps and mobile data to relax lockdown restrictions and to assist in identifying close contacts when a user tests positive for the coronavirus.

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