A peculiar case of publishing personal data in the name of ‘public interest’

It started with TOC reporting on 17 Dec that CPF Board “had rejected the single mother’s (whom they named as “Ms Soo”) request to draw funds from her CPF account”.

To clear the air, various agencies including CPF Board made Ms Soo’s full name, age, and some of her medical history public on 19 Dec. This included “being hospitalised for suspected lupus.”

MP Teo Ser Luck explained: “Though we must respect the confidentiality of personal data, I can understand the need for such information to be shared if it is critical, without which the reader may not get the full picture and understanding of the issue.”

I share the concern expressed by Law don Eugene Tan on what is the public interest. He said: “It would be better had the precise public interest served been spelt out so the disclosure is perceived to not only be legal but, more importantly, as being legitimate and justified. Otherwise, the disclosure could be seen as a “tit for tat””.

Eugene continued: “Public interest can be broad in scope, in this case, it may well be the assessment that the matter is being politicised to arouse a negative public reaction and sow disaffection against public institutions and government policies such as CPF.”

When I read this report, my only thought at the time was whether the single mother’s permission was sought, or at least informed beforehand (public interest notwithstanding). It was not.

“In a telephone interview, the woman said she was shocked to find her personal data publicised on social media by the Government and said it was unnecessary.” She added: “They could have referred to me as Miss X.” (although she did not dispute the Govt’s facts).

It appears that the reason why her permission was not sought was because “(CPF) could not contact her until she returned from aboard.”

Yet, whatever the motive or background of the single mother, I wonder, does she have a point? That is, “Was it necessary?”

Would “the Board allowing Miss X, 46, to withdraw her CPF funds to pay for her hospitalisation expenses for suspected lupus” serve the same goal of curbing fake news and discrediting TOC? Would the reader then be wiser and discretion upheld with the same intended effect as full disclosure?

How about Eugene’s concern about public interest? Is it too broadly defined? Does it run the risk of being used with legal justification, but not justified by perceived legitimacy in the eye of the silent electoral majority?

With full disclosure, and without permission being sought or without informing her, does it also run the risk of being seen as a knee-jerked “tit for tat” reaction to TOC’s inaccurate or incomplete report, as Eugene put it?

Yes, there is a need to clarify facts, but what if it ends up deepening the misunderstanding, distrust or disaffection, or polarising the society even further?

Ultimately, it is not just about publishing the full picture to clarify facts, but about allowing for full consideration on the issue so as to amplify empathy, understanding, respect and support.

 

Michael Han

 

 

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18 Responses to “A peculiar case of publishing personal data in the name of ‘public interest’”

  • disclosed for PUBLIC interest:

    //Though we must respect the confidentiality of personal data, I can understand the need for such information to be shared if it is critical, without which the reader may not get the full picture and understanding of the issue.//

    aiyoh. explain so much for what ? just return people their OWN money on demand lar ? people’s OWN money still must write story to get it meh and have their public info disclosed for PUBLIC interest ? more like the interest of the white monkey idiots and their policies lar ?

    what full picture and understanding ? other people’s OWN MONEY, that is the most fuller picture and understanding ?

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  • who's this clown?:

    BTW, who’s this clown in the above picture!!??

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  • Harder Truths:

    Did she vote for pappies? Too bad then.

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  • Dr. Chan:

    How about disclose Ho Jinx’s remuneration in the name of public interest? I am sure public wants to know how much public’s money has she squandered.

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  • Pinky Ah!:

    Then why didn’t publish the employer of the guy who masturbated in a Bishan GP clinic and offered the lady doc his cum many years ago? He worked in the intelligence service and not making this info public might make people question the integrity of the intelligence service and be less trustful of its role in protecting Singapore.

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  • REGIME CHANGE is the solution:

    It is in the public interest to vote for REGIME CHANGE at the coming GE. Throw out the PAP.

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  • Asd:

    Wow doxxing

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  • Crowd funding ? Gibert?:

    She did not refute the gov fact ?
    Obviously a lose battle.

    Well, anyway.

    Miss Soo should try crowd funding e.g. giveAsia or Gilbert to the rescue.

    By the way she voted ?

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  • opposition dude:

    The government will publish your name and occupation if it wants to malu you. Recall a few years back when some top puppy of the SCDF or something was busted for having an affair? The woman’s name, Cecilia Su, or something was made known as well as her age.

    Or what about the inconsistencis when it comes to sex crimes? Sometimes both the perpetrator and victim are not named, sometimes one is named and the other is not.

    It’s all up to PAP if they want to publish your confidential data or not lah. Forget about any data protection act, it does not apply here.

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  • Harder Truths:

    No democratic government can unilaterally publish a private citizen’s personal details. This is an inviolable right of individuals.

    Only a communist government can do it – as all citizens are deemed to be the Property of the State.

    How many still think there is democracy here?

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  • Art of “tit for tat”:

    Michael Han:
    How about Eugene’s concern about public interest? Is it too broadly defined? Does it run the risk of being used with legal justification, but not justified by perceived legitimacy in the eye of the silent electoral majority?

    This is precisely the kind of partisan silliness to which the article refers. Be sensitive to the fact that no real rules govern the submission of evidence in the court of public opinion and – in a world where information travels at the speed of light to a broad public- the reporting of facts that are far more prejudicial than probative has real-time consequences.

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  • MarBowling:

    Dr. Chan:
    January 3, 2020 at 10:37 am (Quote)
    How about disclose Ho Jinx’s remuneration in the name of public interest? I am sure public wants to know how much public’s money has she squandered.

    Response: good one! Squandered: how much?

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  • TruBlu:

    Fact remains that common sgs are being treated like dirt.
    Only thing too many sgs including highly educated younger ones are EITHER TOO SELF-CENTRED (as they have yet been VIOLATED) or they sinply bochup?

    Well,you reap what you sow during GE.
    You planted bad seeds,you get rotten durians!

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  • The most BS of BS excuses. It was definitely a tit-for-tat to shame the lady who dare speak up against the agency.

    Without naming the lady cannot relate the events that transpired meh?

    What a load of crap.

    .

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  • Makes no sense:

    They always find ways to explain and justify their “mistakes” or slip ups.
    Here is a good eg. Prata flipping which the PAPs are experts.

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  • PAP CLOSE DOWN:

    Did you say intelligence services?

    Pinky Ah!:
    Then why didn’t publish the employer of the guy who masturbated in a Bishan GP clinic and offered the lady doc his cum many years ago? He worked in the intelligence service and not making this info public might make people question the integrity of the intelligence service and be less trustful of its role in protecting Singapore.

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  • ZERO TOLERANCE:

    If CPF BOARD can expose the lady in question, then WHY the courts cannot expose information as to who is the rapist/molester and the one being raped/molested???

    My point is, if the courts have a gag order in place with regards to these crimes for obvious reasons, then WHY CPF BOARD do NOT have the integrity to maintain confidential information while attempting to explain to the public about this woman’s case?

    To say that CPF BOARD has the right to to reveal CPF members’ information is critical in an attempt to clearify themselves is SIMPLY BULL!!! Their method is simply trying to intimidiate and bully. There should be ZERO TOLERANCE (by CPF BOARD) in this method of attempting to explaining themselves.

    Like PAP, CPF Board can no longer be trusted.

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  • The case for public interest:

    [ I share the concern expressed by Law don Eugene Tan on what is the public interest. He said: “It would be better had the precise public interest served been spelt out so the disclosure is perceived to not only be legal but, more importantly, as being legitimate and justified.]

    Thus, legal statutes are not necessarily legitimate nor justified:

    Just so, that it is deemed legal by this government to allow Temasek Holdings Chief CEO Ho Ching’s remuneration to remain a state secret does not amount to its legitimation according to the most sagacious principles of Jurisprudence nor is it justifiable by any reasonable Ethics of parliamentary government.

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