Relinquishing Freedom in our Digital Future

There was a TV cartoon show I loved when I was a kid called “Wait till your Father gets home“. I was probably 5 or 6 then, but I can still remember the mother was practically nagging all the time of having the father to come back to deal with the problems and issues caused by the kids, and sometimes the dog.

This patriarchal mentality of having the male manning (yeah, it is not a gender neutral word) the household is also, unfortunately, mimicked in our societies, in general, being obedient and subservient to the government of the day. This is especially true in East Asian societies, .

While dissent of this mindset is sprouting in the younger generation of these societies, you can see the dichotomy of the older generation and the younger one in the recent protests in Thailand and the on-going one in Myanmar. The older generation is likely fearful of the consequences and there are strong inclinations to accept and subject their freedom to be ruled by the rulers of the day. It is almost like part of their psyche and DNA.

So when I read the article published by Data Storage Asean titled “Malaysians Optimistic on Giving the Government Increased Access to Personal Data for Better Services“, I was in two minds. Why are we giving away our Personal Data when we do not get a guarantee that the our privacy is protected?

Data Privacy should be in our own hands

Why are we giving away our freedom in new digital Malaysia when in history, we have not been truly protected of that freedom? 

Personal Data Protection Act Malaysia

The digital literacy among the Malaysia younger generation is high. We can see their adoption of digital services, digital currency is very natural. However, the literacy of data privacy and the understanding of protection of our Personal Identifiable Information (PII) is extremely low. From the Data Storage Asean news article, the VMware® Digital Frontiers 3.0 study found that 58% of Malaysian consumers are “comfortable or excited about sharing completely accurate data about their daily lives with the government if it leads to better government digital services“.

First of all, we count on the Malaysia government to protect our private data. The Personal Data Protection Act of Malaysia was passed as a law in 2010 and came into force in 2013. It was supposed to prevent the abuse of PII and yet it is as toothless as an old grandmother. I still get several calls and WhatsApp messages a week from nonsense callers and messengers. This means that my personal phone number is out there linked to my name, and there is little recourse for me to expunge that breach of my private data. Unlike the European GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), there is no equivalent to the “right to be forgotten” in the PDPA Malaysia if I am not wrong.

Privacy rights should be our birthrights

Privacy right is a fundamental right recognized by the 1948 United Nation Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and in many other international and regional treaties. And yet, judging from the excerpt of  “comfortable and excited about sharing …“, one can deduce how ignorant Malaysians are with their privacy. Why are we in a hurry to lend our rights to an Orwellian future?

Big Brother is watching … You

In the classic novel, 1984, George Orwell painted a dystopian future where the society was under totalitarian rule. There was mass surveillance of the population, and with it, came the regimentation of thoughts and ideas. Juxtaposing, I see the privacy of one’s Personal Identifiable Information given away freely and easily in exchange for an unproven notion of “better government digital services“. It is as if we are happy to be under surveillance like what we see happening in the mass surveillance in China.

The shambolic inefficaciousness of PDPA Malaysia and the erratic abuse of our private digital details are proofs that there cannot be better government digital services until our privacy rights are guaranteed to be protected.

Question and question about your digital privacy rights

We are heading digital. We cannot be a hermit and ostracize ourselves completely from the digital world. But there has to be a push back to ask questions about our privacy rights.

Malaysians made a big hoo-hah when WhatsApp made a statement to share users’ private data with parent company Facebook. Yet, how quickly we forget when “Malaysian consumers are comfortable or excited about sharing completely accurate data about their daily lives with the government”.

To feign ignorance is not an excuse. It is sacrilegious to not to protect ourselves properly in the digital world. It is time we question the protection of our private data. It is time understand the freedom in our digital future.

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About cfheoh

I am a technology blogger with 30 years of IT experience. I write heavily on technologies related to storage networking and data management because those are my areas of interest and expertise. I introduce technologies with the objectives to get readers to know the facts and use that knowledge to cut through the marketing hypes, FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) and other fancy stuff. Only then, there will be progress. I am involved in SNIA (Storage Networking Industry Association) and between 2013-2015, I was SNIA South Asia & SNIA Malaysia non-voting representation to SNIA Technical Council. I currently employed at iXsystems as their General Manager for Asia Pacific Japan.

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