Government Launches Data Protection Website

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Minister of State for Finance the Hon. Zhivargo Laing (right) speaks at the launching ceremony of the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner website, on Monday, December 10, 2007, at the Ministry of Finance.  Data Protection Commissioner George Rodgers looks on. (BIS Photo/Tim Aylen)

By: Lindsay Thompson

NASSAU, Bahamas – The Government has officially launched its premier website for the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, an aim to defend the privacy of personal information.

In a ceremony held Monday, December 10, 2007, at the Ministry of Finance, Minister of State for Finance the Hon. Zhivargo Laing underscored the importance of the website in the Government’s plans towards modernising its computer system.

“In this modern world, governments near and far are challenged to provide avenues to ensure that the privacy rights of its citizens are protected. We in government are also mandated to seek ways to improve efficiency and keep our people safe in a post ‘9/11’ environment,” Mr. Laing said.

He noted that the promotion of privacy rights and safety concerns is paramount, as they are the two main ingredients of focus among data protection and privacy authorities around the world.

With the enactment of the Data Processing (Privacy of Personal Information) Act, 2003, the Government has put in place “a crucial element” with regard to the privacy of personal information, Mr. Laing said.

The Act came into operation on April 27, 2007. Its main purpose is to “protect the privacy of individuals in relation to personal data and to regulate the collection, processing, keeping, use and disclosure of certain information relating to individuals and to provide for matters incidental to or connected with.”

Additionally, the Act is one of three parts of the Government’s E-Commerce package passed in 2003. The other two were the Computer Misuse Act, and the Electronic Communications and Transaction Act.

“This website has been developed to provide the Bahamian public with access to information about the supervision and regulation of the Data Protection Act. The site is also intended to provide the Commissioner with an effective medium to keep the public informed as it relates to government policy and the development of international standards for the use and disclosure of personal information,” Mr. Laing said.

The Commissioner, a form of ombudsman, is a corporation and is independent in the performance of his duties. His mission is to protect and promote the privacy rights of individuals by:

? Administrating and enforcing the provisions of the Act
? Promoting the observance of good practice by data controllers within the requirements of the Act
? Influencing thinking on privacy and processing of personal information matters on local and global basis
? Discharging, as the national supervisory authority, various functions relating to or arising from any international obligations The Bahamas may have or is seeking to be a party to, in connection with data protection

Other features of the website include a section on frequently asked questions; guidance on how to lodge a complaint and information on Identity Theft.

“This website is intended to provide information on the law and offer a useful point of reference and guidance, while fulfilling its mission to protect and promote the privacy rights of individuals,” Mr. Laing said

He encouraged Bahamians to make maximum use of this facility, as the Government aims to protect their fundamental rights to privacy.

The website can be accessed at www.bahamas.gov.bs/dataprotection.