Don’t simply join WhatsApp groups, phone numbers can be misused, public advised

PUTRAJAYA: Telephone numbers are personal data that are most valuable now and are at risk of being used by irresponsible parties either to make a profit or use it to harm someone, says Personal Data Protection Commissioner Mazmalek Mohamad.

In a briefing to the media here, he advised the public to avoid joining WhatsApp groups that are not beneficial to avoid unknowingly sharing phone numbers.

"Sometimes we don't know all the members of the 'group'. Unknown to us, some members of the 'group' secretly shared our phone numbers with others.

"And when all the numbers of people in the group have been shared with a scammer or a telemarketing agency, they will leave the WhatsApp group and join another group,” he said, adding that the tactic would make it easier for fraudulent or telemarketing syndicates to acquire the phone numbers easily.

According to the 2020 Internet Users Survey conducted by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), he said 98.7% of the country's citizens choose the WhatsApp application as their main communication medium.

"The number is high, if all the numbers are easily shared, then many Malaysians are exposed to fraud,” he said.

Mazmalek also said the amendment to the Personal Data Protection Act 2010 (Act 709) is expected to be tabled in Parliament in October and it is now in the process of review by the Attorney General’s Chambers.

However, it is up to the Communications and Multimedia Minister to set a date for it to be tabled in Parliament.

On Feb 12, 2020, the Communications and Multimedia Ministry (K-KOMM) was reported to have conducted public consultations on the proposed amendments to Act 709 to strengthen the protection of personal data in Malaysia in addition to ensuring that the Act is in line with the requirements of the digital economic revolution, technology, social and environmental developments. - Bernama

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