Need for a Privacy Act in the Maldives

Leaks over last week 
Last week ended with news of a serious breach in privacy of over 234,000 Maldivians.  Individual(s) from Fuvahmulah had created a website (DNS records show that the domain has been active from 08-Apr-2011) which allowed anyone to view personal details of Maldivians over the age of 17 (which makes it highly likely this data was leaked from Elections Commission). These details included the National ID, Name, Date of Birth, Address, Atoll, Island etc, with blank fields for the name of parents indicating that whoever behind this was hoping to add that information as well. The website was taken down after news sites reported it (and google has also cleared the cached pages of the website).

Not long after this (and on the same day), newspapers also reported another serious breach in privacy of Civil Servants in the Maldives. However, this time the breach was a deliberate action by the body responsible for the Civil Servants. Their excuse being that they needed to clear the confusion that other government bodies had about the salary of Civil Servants and also to allow Civil Servants themselves to view their salaries themselves. Unfortunately none of the Maldivian newspapers grasped the seriousness of this issue and reported it as just any other ordinary news.

Potential Consequences
Personal details such as National ID, date of birth and address are used by the Banks when activating debit, credit and EFTPOS cards (though this may not be a very good security policy). Now just imagine the consequences if a rogue person or organisation had the details of over 234,000 people. Also, what about the dangers of identity theft?

Though not as private as National IDs and date of births, salaries too are private information that most individuals would like to remain hidden from the rest of the world. Public availability of an individual’s salary can affect the social standing of the individual and can also affect how they are perceived by their peers. Also, it would make difficult for people to save money when everyone knows how much they really earn. Just imagine how life would be if every shopkeeper/sales assistant knew how much you earned.

Protecting Privacy
Therefore, before much more sensitive data such as health and criminal records are leaked we need a strong mechanism to prevent such violations of privacy and prosecute such violations. Violations of privacy should not be taken lightly and a Privacy Actshould be implemented as soon as possible.

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