Our privacy in a new Malaysia?

Our privacy in a new Malaysia?

Smartphones, social media and technology have become part of our lives. I simply cannot imagine any of us able to live a day without using any gadgets. Imagine what was the first thing that we do when we wake up in the morning, we check our smartphones and social media. When we drive out from home and we forgot our smartphone, even the charger or power bank, we will definitely turn around and get it. Smartphones have changed our lives. That is our lives in the current era. 

But there are always trade-offs with things that we love. For smartphones and social media, we are giving away our personal data and information. Everytime we use it, it collects data from us. The phone numbers that we call or receive from; our text messages; our locations; what have we browsed in the internet; our photos, videos and depending on what apps we are using, our private information such as financial data, passwords, schedules could be accessible to certain people.

Privacy has been a worldwide concern which many tech companies were created to protect more personal privacy. Even the iPhone is using privacy as its unique selling point in their latest model.

But it seems this privacy issues has just recently grabbed the attention of Malaysians last week when the MACC commissioner, Latheefa Koya released a so-called wiretapped phone conversation that is assumed to be the former Prime Minister, his wife and other government officials.

This creates a question on how secure our privacy is. Bear in mind that this wiretapped phone conversation is deemed to be five years ago. Either there are a lot of wiretapped data being kept knowingly or the government has the ability to retrieve such data even if it is years back. And yet many of us are criticising China for their lack of privacy. Is our government protecting the privacy of its citizens? China is known for the government’s implementation of mass surveillance which is a network of monitoring systems to ‘supervise’ the lives of their citizens. While Malaysia may not be as advanced as that, to what extent is the government monitoring our lives?

Some may argue that this is important for the case. Yes, I agree that it could be a clue to the investigation of cases related to the former Prime Minister.

But what if this happens to you? I do believe that you are not a criminal or against any laws. So what if it was a private conversation between you and your business partners discussing business strategies being wiretapped and being released to your competitors? What if your intimate conversation between you and your spouse were released unknowingly? What if you were sending your bank pincode to your wife or husband?

Let’s say if you have nothing to hide and you have no issue of your phone calls being wiretapped. You’re innocent, so what are you afraid of? But why is this information being released now?

The former PM was arrested by the MACC on July 2018, trials and investigations have begun since then. Why didn’t the MACC find such information back then? Does MACC need such a long period to obtain the information? Is MACC that inefficient?

Even if they have found a clue now, why does the MACC commissioner, Latheefa Koya have to release it publicly in a press conference? What is the motive? She graduated with a Bachelor of Law in 1997. For so many decades she has earned a degree in law, and doesn’t she understand the term sub judice? Isn’t the case under judicial consideration and therefore prohibited from public discussion elsewhere? Or is she bringing the case to the court of public opinion?

Making me question the motive even more is the fact that she is also famous for being a human rights activist. For those who know about Article 12 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights: No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home, or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

For someone who has fought so much for human rights, doesn’t she know about this declaration? I have doubts. Isn’t she going against human rights now?

Oh, and so happened it is the beginning of the Kimanis by-election, and it made everyone discuss it. Whether what is the motive, you think about it.

The timing, our privacy, a new Malaysia? We have to figure it out.

This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 14th January 2020.

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