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Singapore, Asian Opinions

Stacy Baird
Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Singapore, Asian Opinions

Region needs to harmonise data laws

The Straits Times | Stacy Baird | Wednesday, May 14, 2014

In an attempt to prevent such walls being erected, the Asia- Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum has established a voluntary Privacy Framework and Cross Border Privacy Rules to guide governments drafting privacy laws.

In the 21st century, the ability of data created on computers to move freely across geographical borders - which do not exist on the Internet - has presented governments with new regulatory challenges.

This is most apparent with the advent of cloud computing, where data stored or processed by a service provider can be located outside the country where the data was created.

Like electricity, businesses utilising cloud computing save a lot of money by paying for only the amount of computing that they need at any particular time. Cloud computing enables small businesses to have the same computing capabilities as large businesses without investing in information technology (IT) infrastructure.

However, to get the full advantage of cloud computing, systems need to scale and move data from one location to another, often from one country to another, safely, securely and within the law.

New data laws in Singapore show that the Government understands it is crucial to ensure data flows in and out of Singapore as smoothly as the ships that pass through its harbours.

But the region is far from being in step. When a business in Indonesia wants to use a cloud service provided by a company in Singapore, the Indonesian business may run into regulations that prohibit sending data outside the country.

In 2012, the Philippines enacted a data privacy law that applies to extraterritorial data storage if data is about a Philippine resident, but not to residents of foreign jurisdictions.

In contrast, India's 2011 Privacy Rules were revised only a year later to exempt "data outsourcing." The idea was to enable cross-border data flows critical to India's IT industry.

Such differences in approach create challenges for those who want to move data between the two countries.

In an attempt to prevent such walls being erected, the Asia- Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum has established a voluntary Privacy Framework and Cross Border Privacy Rules to guide governments drafting privacy laws.

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