By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The Data Protection Commissioner says there has been a 20-fold increase in complaints to her office since she assumed the post in mid-2013, including allegations illegally-recorded conversations.
Sharmie Farrington-Austin also warned that she would apply the ‘public interest’ test when it came to the the leaking of Government information via the media.
Speaking with Tribune Business at the third annual data protection symposium under the theme, ‘The Balancing Act’, Mrs Farrington-Austin said that since assuming office in June 2013, personal data/privacy breach complaints had gone from five per year to around 100.
“Interestingly enough we have had several complaints about people’s conversations being recorded without their consent, which is completely illegal,” she said. “We have seen a lot of leaking of Government information, of course mostly by the press.
“The public needs to know that as it relates to the media, although we don’t have the special provisions that the UK has, which gives journalists special exemptions, at the end of the day for me as commissioner it is the whole public interest argument that must be met and satisfied.”
She added: “We will look at those leaks and determine whether or not it was in the public interest for those leaks to be disclosed or not. I’m not afraid to do my job in any event. However, I’m not here to stifle the media or prevent them from doing their job; that’s the balancing act we are talking about.”
Mrs Farrington-Austin added that the 100 complaints received by the Commission still does not accurately reflect the number of data breaches in the Bahamas, as other agencies - such as the police’s cyber-crime unit - were also involved in combating the offence.
“We have gone from five complaints and, perhaps when I take another assessment, we will be more to the 100 mark. When I was first appointed there was consistently five complaints, and now we are up to 100,” she said.
“Even that 100 doesn’t accurately reflect the data breaches because there are other agencies that people can file complaints to, like the cybercrime unit, which is also involved in personal data. If you look at all the agencies collectively you will get a real idea of the huge number of data breaches.”