(Petaling Jaya, Friday): I welcome the clarification by the Minister for Energy, Telecommunications and Posts, Datuk Leo Moggie, that the Multimedia Convergence Bill to govern the combined use of the different technologies in broadcasting, telecommunications and computing would be tabled in Parliament by the year’s end.
This week alone, I have twice raised the question as to the position of the Multimedia Convergence Bill, as the the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDC) had announced that the drafting of the Multimedia Convergence Act to create an “up-to-date communications framework” to be implemented in 1997 would be the first step to provide the best cyberlaws in the region but there had been no news whatsoever about it although Parliament had received notice on three cyberbills, on digital signature, computer crime and multimedia intellectual property for the forthcoming Parliamentary meeting.
I had also called on the MDC, which has described itself as the “champion, facilitator, and partner of companies choosing to operate in the MSC” and that one of its role is to “shape MSC-specific laws and policies by advising the Malaysian Government” to throw some light on the position of the Multimedia Convergence Bill.
Although Leo Moggie has now disclosed that the Multimedia Convergence Bill would be tabled in Parliament at the end of the year, he has still to explain why it has become the last of the first batch of cyberlaws prepared by the government for the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) when it had been intended to the the first cyberlaw in Malaysia to provide “an up-to-date communications framework” for the quantum leap into the information age.
Furthermore, the delay in the drafting and passage of the Multimedia Convergence Act would also mean that the Multimedia Development Corporation would not be able to honour its public commitment that the Act would be implemented in 1997 itself!
What is most unsatisfactory is the manner the Government is going about drafting the cyberlaws - with very little consumer or user perspective, and even very little technological perspective. The country had been told that three cyberbills would be presented to the Parliamentary meeting beginning on Monday, the Digital Data Signature Bill to ensure that digital signatures utilised in electronic commerce would be protected, recognised and accepted; the Computer Crimes Bill to curb hacking, theft of information and implanting of viruses and the Copyright (Amendment) Bill to protect intellectual property rights.
Yesterday, Leo Moggie disclosed in a most perfunctory manner that there would be a fourth cyberbill in the forthcoming Parliament, the Telemedicine Development Bill to facilitate medical consultancy using modern communication technology.
All these bills had been drafted in great secrecy without any public, consumer or user input - which is in total contradiction to the meaning of an Information Society, which is to make the government more open, accessible and user-friendly where citizens are more engaged in the process of government decision-making.
For instance, has the government succeeded in providing proper balance between the competing interests of consumers and copyright owners in its bill on multimedia intellectual property - the interests of consumers in having access to copyright materials and the interests of copyright owners in securing a reward for, and maintaining control over, the distribution of those materials?
How could the government claim that it has struck a proper balance between the competing interests of consumers and copyright owners, who may not be the creative individuals but large corporations, when the users and consumers have had no opportunity to provide input or feedback into the cyberlaw on multimedia intellectual property?
The biggest blemish of the first batch of cyberlaws being prepared by the government is the absence of a Data Protection Act to protect privacy. How will privacy of information, such as credit card numbers, credentials, etc. be protected during electronic transactions?
With the advent of telemedicine, the issue of privacy becomes even more acute, as the dislcosure of certain medical information can lead to a denial of access to credit, admission to educational institutions, and the ability to secure employment and obtain insurance.
As inaccuracies in the information, or its improper disclosure, of private data could threaten personal and financial well-being of Malaysians, a Data Protection Act to protect privacy should be regarded as a top priority in the first batch of cyberlaws in the country.
The Government should therefore take a policy decision to introduce a Data Protection Act to protect privacy in the first batch of cyberlaws in the country which should allow individuals to have easy and direct access to any information on themselves for the purpose of knowing, copying, correcting, completing the information or limiting its usage.