Data law 'safe' for businesses

Data law 'safe' for businesses

Minister moves to allay corporate fears

Digital Economy and Society Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta addresses the 'Bangkok Post Conference 2019 Power of Data: Privacy In A Connected World' at Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
Digital Economy and Society Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta addresses the 'Bangkok Post Conference 2019 Power of Data: Privacy In A Connected World' at Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

The government has assured local and multinational corporations that the new personal data protection law taking effect in May next year will not harm their businesses, saying that a guidebook on the law will be launched soon.

The move was unveiled by Digital Economy and Society Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta on Wednesday at the Bangkok Post Conference 2019 on "Power of Data: Privacy in a Connected World".

In his keynote speech, Mr Buddhipongse said his Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (DES) will hold a workshop to explain the new law to businesses and state agencies on Oct 10.

Lessons from the workshop will be used to create a guide for companies on how to handle data protection under the law.

"Don't worry, you are not the only ones concerned about what to do to comply with this Act. I can't say the law will have no impact on you, but you have to conduct yourselves [in a certain way] to avoid violating it. I can assure you that it will not harm your businesses," he said.

The Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) aimed at protecting individual rights became law in May this year. However, companies and government agencies have been given a 12-month grace period until May 27 next year to comply with key provisions of the law.

Once implemented, the PDPA will change the landscape of personal data protection in Thailand. Those who cause data breaches will face jail terms of 6 months to one year and fines of 500,000 to one million baht.

The PDPA aligns with standards of the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

"This Act is in line with international norms and laws. As a result, please be assured that the law is not intended to breach basic rights of multinational companies and Thai businesses," Mr Buddhipongse said.

The government will also set up a PDPA board and cyber security agency this year to handle implementation of the law and the new Cyber Security Act, respectively.

Mr Buddhipongse said seven members for each board are now being appointed.

The government has allocated budgets of two million for the work of each board.

"We are committed to ensuring implementation is not delayed," Mr Buddhipongse said.

BIG DATA PUSH

Mr Buddhipongse noted the government will receive its first "big data" set within the next 6 months to aid policy decisions at state agencies, particularly in the three key areas of tourism, healthcare and import-export.

"We have made the first move is in tourism," he said.

"We will bring all agencies related to tourism together with the help of data specialists so that they can manage their own budgets and provide budgets to smaller provinces to develop tourism."

The push should give business operators precise data to use in making investment decisions -- where and how funds should be invested -- while enabling state agencies to know exactly which areas should be promoted and on what scale to attract tourists.

Regarding healthcare, Mr Buddhipongse said his ministry will build up a large database of medical records collected from both private and public hospitals, storing it in the cloud and allowing patients access to their own medical data confidentially with an ID card.

Meanwhile for imports and exports, the big-data set will help measure the ebb and flow of economic development in the country and whether it is being managed systematically.

Included will be data on the movement of millions of goods containers in and out of Thailand.

The data will help bolster the development of the country logistics infrastructure, said the minister.

"State agencies' management of big data suffered from a lack of continuity in the past because the centralised system was impractical and unfocused, which meant that each agency failed to see the benefits."

Mr Buddhipongse also said that the collection of big data should be conducted strategically, sector by sector.


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