[EDITORIALS]Privacy draft is too weak

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[EDITORIALS]Privacy draft is too weak

A draft revision of the law on the protection of private information at public offices was approved at a cabinet meeting yesterday. The revised law would ban public bodies from collecting and filing information on individuals at their discretion. The revision says that the heads of public offices, including government agencies, local governments, schools and government-run enterprises, must notify people of the legal grounds and purpose of their actions, either by Internet or other notices.
With the development of the Internet and communication technologies, the illegal outflow of private information and damage from such leaks is growing larger day by day. It is timely that the government has provided a safety measure for the protection of private information. The number of public institutions affected by the law numbers over 35,000, and they have been extending unlimited help to each other in collecting and exchanging private information under the pretext of “business cooperation.” So the measure seems belated, and it should be amended to make it even stronger. The minister of government administration and home affairs should publicize a list of files on private information held by public offices more than once annually through the Internet. That would strengthen the transparency of the management of private information.
But it is not clear that the revised law would be effective in protecting individual privacy. Nothing is included to punish public officials who violate the proposed law. In the first half of last year, about 2,000 alleged violations of existing privacy laws were reported to a body under the Ministry of Information and Communication. Who would follow the law if there is no accountability? And investigations of crimes, including tax evasion, would be exempted from protection, so there is no guarantee of due process.
The leakage of private data by financial companies is also serious. Although there are punitive legal provisions like the real-name financial transactions law, information leaks through financial company employees never stop. When financial companies are merged or go bankrupt, customer information is left unprotected and transferred to another company without the customers’ consent.
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