On 11 September 2014, the Personal Data Protection Commission (the “Commission”) issued new advisory guidelines for the education, healthcare and social service sectors. At the same time, the Commission has also included a new chapter on photography in the existing Advisory Guidelines on the Personal Data Protection Act for Selected Topics. These advisory guidelines aim to help organisations comply with the Personal Data Protection Act (the “PDPA”) in sector specific scenarios by making references to various common examples. The advisory guidelines incorporate public comments received during a three-week consultation from 16 May to 6 June 2014.

The Advisory Guidelines for the Education Sector cover common scenarios such as disclosure of personal data of minors for a school field trip, disclosure of a student’s personal data for a marketing purpose or to another parent, provision of access to a student’s records, correction of a teacher’s opinion in a student’s annual assessment report, and the sending of text messages to students and parents on an annual school walkathon.

As for the Advisory Guidelines for the Healthcare Sector, some of the common scenarios addressed include the transfer of patients’ personal data between organisations in referral cases, the collection, use and disclosure of patients’ personal data in an emergency, the provision of laboratory testing services by an external vendor, and the use of patients’ personal data for research purposes.

It is clear under the Advisory Guidelines for the Social Service Sector that in collaborations between voluntary welfare organisations and companies to send fund-raising inserts along with monthly bills to customers of the companies, such companies are required to seek consent from their customers as this constitutes the use of personal data. Companies that have used personal data of customers to send such inserts before the PDPA took effect on 2 July 2014 can continue to do so, but have to allow their customers to withdraw consent.

The new chapter on photography in the Advisory Guidelines on the Personal Data Protection Act for Selected Topics addresses issues such as how to obtain an individual’s consent for photo-taking at a private function, whether posing for photo-taking is deemed consent for the photograph to be collected, used or disclosed for a stated purpose and what happens when an individual in a group photograph withdraws consent for the publication of the photograph in an internal newsletter.

In addition to these advisory guidelines, the Commission has also issued a new Guide to Notification which aims to provide organisations with information on and examples of good practices relating to notifications to consumers on the collection, use and disclosure of personal data.

Reference materials

The following materials are available from the Commission’s website www.pdpc.gov.sg: