TV SMITH's Dua Sen: The Naked Malaysian
TV Smith's Dua Sen
TV Smith's Dua Sen. The politically incorrect irregular columnist combines his idiosyncratic observations and tangential commentary into a blog...


by TV Smith

Didn't your mother teach you never to ask a stranger how much he earns or a lady her age?

When I wrote that much plagiarised piece on our much-touted MyKad (The Naked Card) in 2003, I was trying to emphasise the potential abuse of shared data. In 2005, data theft is already a real problem. The Star recently highlighted cases where unscrupulous employees of financial institutions and telcos routinely sell personal data to third parties. By right, such sellers and buyers should be lying behind bars. Instead; a proposed Personal Data Protection Act is left lying in a drawer since 2001.

Why is there so much data for the taking, in the first place? I can understand if one is applying for a credit card, but many simple transactions now require you to surrender more personal information than when applying for a CEO's job or a housing loan. Fortunately, as consumers, you and I have every right to reject such products or services. Only by doing so, will we send a clear message to arrogant executives that our best safeguard is to avoid prying companies altogether.

Many companies conveniently cite the fact that the information is required to help them improve their services and to profile their customers. In most cases, it is for churning out demographics to impress their advertisers and investors. Ironically, the statistics derived are often inaccurate as people habitually disclose false or wrong info. Dinesh Nair, for example, told me he would almost always write "Dog" under 'Race' (in a paper form) just to screw up the system and as a sign of protest.

Excessive data mining is an unnecessary evil that deters many prospective clients. Of course, many bosses are also unaware that with looming legislation; they may be saddled with a minefield if the data is not properly managed or is misused by an employee.

Meanwhile, there is little movitation to secure your data against unauthorised access or loss. There is also no obligation not to process the data in any manner incompatible with the purpose for which it was given. Where a 'Privacy Statement' is available, there is often another clever disclaimer around it.

Currently, if an organisation holds your information for the purposes of direct marketing, you have little recourse to have your details removed from their database. But then again, since you didn't even whimper when they affixed your date of birth to your IC number, would any government now even think about your privacy?

In many countries, companies would not even dare dream of requesting the type of personal data routinely demanded here. Snoopy salesmen will find little favour with customers who are fiercely protective of their fundamental right to privacy. As a result, any required information is kept minimal and additional information made optional.

Malaysia, however, seems to be heading in the opposite direction. To sign up for a basic service, you need to cough up more information than that required of a passport application. Fixated on data collection, many web marketeers seem to have forgotten a golden rule: Make the purchasing process as easy as possible.

Below are sample screenshots of online application/registration forms I encountered in just one night. Almost all the fields in the forms must be completed before I can listen to a streaming radio station, buy a debit card or obtain wifi access. I have included a credit card application for comparison. See if you can figure which one is the bank...


© 2005 TV SMITH
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