Singapore — The Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO) released a statement on Friday (Dec 27), saying that the Government published information regarding a sick woman who applied to use the funds in her Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings as it deemed that the public should know the correct and relevant facts in the case.
According to a report in the straitstimes.com, SNDGO released its statement after questions arose from journalists concerning the organization’s policy when it comes to releasing the personal data of an individual in specific instances of public interest.
SNDGO clarified in its statement that this type of disclosure, which includes the identity of the person concerned, is allowed under the law.
On December 19, a joint statement had been issued by the CPF Board, Housing & Development Board, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, and Ministry of Social and Family Development on its Facebook account to clarify an article featured in The Online Citizen (TOC) concerning a woman who was allegedly denied access to her CPF fund, despite her current medical condition and appeals made to her Member of Parliament, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung.
The woman, whose name is Sua Li Li but is referred to in TOC’s article as ‘Ms Soo,’ is said to be suffering from Systemic Lupus Erythemathosus (SLE) and is allegedly unable to work. The TOC article, published on December 17, said that Ms Soo, age 46, has also written to President Halimah Yacob, requesting assistance to release her CPF Funds from Medisave and Special Accounts, claiming that her savings are depleted. She says she needs access to the funds because she desires to help her daughter, a student at Singapore Polytechnic, as well as her elderly parents.
According to the article, Ms Sua’s request for her funds to be released was denied by the CPF Board.
In the joint statement, the CPF Board explained and clarified several points that had been raised in the article, mainly that Ms Sua is being actively supported by several government agencies, which TOC did not mention.
Because the joint statement mentioned Ms Sua by name, queries arose as to whether her personal information should have been published.
straitstimes.com reports that the SNDO said in its statement, “The Online Citizen first published an article on Ms Sua on 17 Dec 2019 which omitted key facts and contained misleading statements. The relevant public agencies jointly issued a clarification to provide the full picture to the public. Some specific personal information was disclosed in order to convey verifiable facts and to enable the individual to challenge the Government’s account of the case, if need be.
Public agencies have a duty to preserve the public trust reposed in them and to ensure that citizens are not misled.”
The statement pointed out that this is similar to the Personal Data Protection Commission allowing firms to make pubic relevant personal data about someone in a public forum for the purpose of clarifying misleading or false statements that person has made, a practice which, SNDGO says, “gives the companies an opportunity to clear the air for themselves, and convey the facts of the case to the public.”
This type of making information known publicly is dissimilar to unauthorised breaches of citizens’ data, something that government offices promise to zealously prevent from occurring.
A spokesman for the SNDGO is quoted by the report as sating, ”Public agencies abide by the data protection regulations under the Public Sector (Governance) Act and in the Government Instruction Manuals.
These are no less stringent than the requirements of the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) which apply to the private sector.” -/TISG