Authors: Dr. Manique Cooray
Historically, people tended to live in small self-contained and relatively static communities in which one’s character was a matter of public knowledge and identification was automatic. The localisation of assistance for the poor was a disincentive to mobility for many and an itinerant criminal population was not viewed as problematic as punishment was largely immediate and corporeal. Records were kept locally but the lack of a fast and efficient communications system meant that it was not practically possible to share information with other localities. It was accepted that offenders tended to leave prison, change their names and move to another area, presumably to continue offending. Methods were developed that enabled the authorities to “fix” individuals with an identity, such as anthropometry and photography, but these were not wholly reliable and storage and distribution of the information remained an impediment to effective enforcement.With the onset of the Internet this mobility to share information grew beyond measure. What was historically considered as private immediately became public once the information entered the computer network. Names, addresses, personal and private details became freely available and accessible. Misuse of such personal information is rampant. If as the saying goes the greatest trademark of a person is his/her identity then it must also be concluded that it the greatest challenge of the human race to protect this identity from misuse and abuse; to protect one’s identity from malicious tongues and false accusations and to be keep one’s identity safe on the Internet. Thus the objective of this paper is to determine if there are protections available for an individual under the Personal Data Protection laws of Malaysia if their identity is misused. The paper will not focus on the data protection principles nor the rights of the data subjects as the first question that needs to be addressed in any given situation is whether the personal data is protected under the law.
Keywords: Personal Data Protection Laws, Identity, Malaysia