Trinidad and Tobago
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Mark: Government created a data privacy ‘nightmare’

Sean Douglas Opposition Senator Wade Mark. -
Opposition Senator Wade Mark. -

OPPOSITION Senator Wade Mark said the Government had created an "Orwellian nightmare" in TT by not proclaiming all parts of the Data Protection Act 2011, as he moved a private motion chiding this alleged inaction, in the Senate on Tuesday.

Advocating privacy protection, he quipped that the current state of affairs of that law exposed the personal business of marriage cheats.

He said without a person's knowledge or consent, others could tap into their emails and WhatsApp messages, track their movements and take camera shots of them, all because of gaps due to unproclaimed sections of the act.

"What the Government has done without proclaiming the entire law, all 101 provisions, is to allow an Orwelllian nightmare in TT. It is Big Brother watching you, and I don't think that is the objective of the data protection law." Mark was referring to British author George Orwell's 1948 novel titled 1984 where every aspect of individuals' daily routines including speech patterns were closely monitored by the State ruled by a dictator known as Big Brother. He said the TT Parliament had passed the data protection law alongside electronic transaction legislation to prevent abuses of people's personal details doing transactions.

"Is the Government of TT guilty of deliberately frustrating the will of the Parliament of the people of TT, in the context of the separation of powers?"

He said when Parliament passed a law the Government must operationalise it, not frustrate the will of Parliament.

Mark accused the Government of arbitrary behaviour that threatens TT's democracy.

He complained that the Finance Act 2022 had amended the Valuation of Land Act to mandate that TT Post, WASA and TTEC supply customers' personal information in their possession to the Commissioner of Valuations.

"That is the behaviour of modern-day autocrats.

"When a Government has total control of the information machine they can do anything and everything they want, without your knowledge."

Saying the country was now on a dangerous road, he said, "That is why I have brought this motion. Proclaim the entire law (to protect people's privacy.)"

Mark said, "If you call me you cannot have a proper conversation. I am hearing all kinds of noises in the background. The SSA (Strategic Services Agency) is at work!

"I cannot talk to you. I have to call you over and over, because the SSA is using cyber surveillance software. They are spying on everybody in TT. They are accessing your data without your knowledge." He claimed this was even happening with WhatsApp, (which was marketed as encryption-secured.)

"The Government has the technology to decrypt. They can decrypt your information and get all your emails, all your WhatsApp, all your telephone numbers, all your contacts, knowing where you're going.

"Anybody horning their wife, they in trouble! 'Look!' They could tell where you are, at what time, where."This is serious business. That is why I'm calling on the Government today, proclaim the entire legislation! Provide the checks and balances."

He said the Government had left large parts of the act unproclaimed, rendering the whole law illegal and unconstitutional, and leaving the people unprotected.

Mark urged the Government to proclaim the whole act, saying, "so they can live in dignity, they can protect their privacy and we can allow our democracy to flourish."