On February 1, 2018, the Singapore Personal Data Protection Commission (the “PDPC”) published its response to feedback collected during a public consultation process conducted during the late summer and fall of 2017 (the “Response”). During that public consultation, the PDPC circulated a proposal relating to two general topics: (1) the relevance of two new alternative bases for collecting, using and disclosing personal data (“Notification of Purpose” and “Legal or Business Purpose”), and (2) a mandatory data breach notification requirement. The PDPC invited feedback from the public on these topics.

“Notification of Purpose” as a new basis for an organization to collect, use and disclose personal data.

In its consultation, the PDPC solicited views on “Notification of Purpose” as a possible new basis for data processing. In its Response, the PDPC noted that it intends to amend its consent framework to incorporate the “Notification of Purpose” approach (also called “deemed consent by notification”), which will essentially provide for an opt-out approach.

Under that approach, organizations may collect, use and disclose personal data merely by providing (1) some form of appropriate notice of purpose in situations where there is no foreseeable adverse impact on the data subjects, and (2) a mechanism to opt out. The PDPC will issue guidelines on what would be considered “not likely to have any adverse impact.” The approach will also require organizations to undertake risk and impact assessments to determine any such possible adverse impacts. Where the risk assessments determine a likely adverse impact, the approach may not be used. Also, the “Notification of Purpose” approach may not be used for direct marketing purposes.

The PDPC will not specify how organizations will be required to notify individuals of purpose, and will leave it to organizations to determine the most appropriate method under the circumstances, which might include a general notification on a website or social media page. The notification must, however, include information on how to opt out or withdraw consent from the collection, use or disclosure. The PDPC also said it would provide further guidance on situations where opt-out would be challenging, such as where large volumes of personal data are collected by sensors, for example.

“Legitimate Interest” as a basis to collect, use or disclose personal data.

In its consultation, the PDPC also sought feedback on a proposed “Legal and Business Purpose” ground for processing personal information. In its Response, the PDPC said that based on the feedback, it intends to adopt this concept under the EU term “legitimate interest.” The PDPC will provide guidance on the legal and business purposes that come within the ambit of “legitimate interest,” such as fraud prevention. “Legitimate interest” will not cover direct marketing purposes. The intent behind this ground for processing is to enable organizations to collect, use and disclose personal data in contexts where there is a need to protect legitimate interests that will have economic, social, security or other benefits for the public or a section thereof, and the processing should not be subject to consent. The benefits to the public or a section thereof must outweigh any adverse impacts to individuals. Organizations must conduct risk assessments to determine whether they can meet this requirement. Organizations relying on “legitimate interest” must also disclose this fact and make available a document justifying the organization’s reliance on it.

Mandatory Data Breach Notification

Regarding the 72-hour breach notification requirement it proposed in the consultation, the PDPC acknowledged in its Response that the affected organization may need time to determine the veracity of a suspected data breach incident. Thus, it stated that the time frame for the breach notification obligation only commences when the affected organization has determined that a breach is eligible for reporting. This means that when an affected organization first becomes aware that an information security incident may have occurred, the organization still has time to conduct a digital forensic investigation to determine precisely what has happened, including whether any breach of personal information security has happened at all, before the clock begins to run on the 72-hour breach notification deadline. From that time, the organization must report the incident to the affected individuals and the PDPC as soon as practicable, but still within 72 hours.

The PDPC requires that the digital forensic investigation be completed within 30 days. However, it still allows that the investigation may continue for more than 30 days if the affected organization has documented reasons why the time taken to investigate was reasonable and expeditious.

Both the Centre for Information Policy and Leadership and Hunton & Williams LLP filed public comments in the PDPC’s consultation.