Call to Observe International Privacy Day: Demand data protection law to secure personal information

[VOICE, Dhaka, 28 January 2018] `VOICE’ an advocacy organization calls NGOs, civil society organizations and rights groups to observe Privacy Day (28 January) uphold the right to privacy and data protection.

We urge the government to ensure people’s right to privacy through building policy coherence and creating an independent privacy commission. “Privacy” itself is guaranteed under Article 39(2)(a) and Article 43 of the fundamental rights of the Bangladesh Constitution. Article 33(2)(a) entrenches “the right of every citizen to freedom of speech and expression” and Article 43 guarantees “the privacy of home and correspondence and communications”.

Privacy also guaranteed in Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A perception study on privacy rights conducted by VOICE, shows that 83% respondents feel uneasy to share very personal information (e.g. sexual desire) to others while 79% identified income as their 2nd most priority issue that they do not want to disclose and 75% people do not like to share information about their own resources.52% of respondents think that information would be unsafe and to used for other purposes.

Referring to the means of violations of privacy, 40% respondents said their privacy has threatened by the mobile phone companies. 80% respondent thinks that information which they’ve already given for Voter ID card/national ID should not be preserved in a proper way.

In response to the question about protection of personal information, 92% respondents supported the protection of personal information while 73% said to establish privacy commission to secure privacy rights.  We urge the government and private agencies to minimize to ask information from individuals.

Communications surveillance such as mobile and email interceptions violate rights to privacy while we urge government’s agencies to seek information in specific cases regard to the security issue only.

We also urge upon the Internet Service Providers (ISP) of Bangladesh not to provide all email communications that breach privacy rights. In many cases, we have observed that information is sold to the third party that infringes privacy rights.

So, we demand the government to formulate a legal framework to protect privacy rights to promote the practice of democracy at large.

It is noteworthy that Right to Information Act also emphasizes privacy that “any information that may, endanger the security of public or impede the due judicial process of a pending case should not be disclosed; any information that may offend the privacy of the personal life of an individual; any information that may endanger the life or physical safety of any person; and any information given in confidence to any law enforcement agency by a person”.

VOICE commissioned a national committee including academician, advocate, journalist, ICT expert, CSO leader that brought a draft Data Protection act and demanded the government to consider enacting it.  The drat act was publicly discussed through a national seminar with the participation of parliamentarian, political leaders, IT experts, academicians,  lawyers, youth and civil society representatives.

We urge to the government to immediately formulate privacy and data protection law to ensure right to privacy, said Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, executive director of VOICE.