NIDS Bill approval shifts focus to Data Protection

KINGSTON, Jamaica — Having cleared the hurdle of approving the National Identification and Registration Act, 2021 in Parliament, the Government is now focused on implementing the Data Protection Act (DPA), which goes hand-in-hand with the identification process.

Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, told her colleagues in Parliament on Friday, that a notice has been requested for December 1, when the Information Commissioner for the NIDS Bill takes office.

“December 1, when the information commissioner will take up his role and start to build out, everything will come from there. So, when I say it (DPA) is imminent and that the work is proceeding, it will be safe to ensure that there is alignment when both (Acts) come into effect,” Johnson Smith, who is also the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, commented during the debate.

Minister of Justice, Delroy Chuck, who took responsibility for the Bill in the House of Representatives last year, after the Government was forced to table a new Bill in response to the Supreme Court’s decision that sections of the legislation contravened the Constitution, told OBSERVER ONLINE yesterday that he expects the DPA to be implemented shortly.

“We are waiting for the DPA to come into force before the NIDS. In fact, even though most of the data will not be affected by the DPA for years, we have made provisions in the NIDS that immediately comes into force and the DPA authority will be responsible to check on the security of the data in the NIDS Bill,” he said.   

“We were hoping that it would have been in force by now. I am hoping that it will happen before the end of the year,” he added.

The NID Act, 2021 was approved unanimously by the Senate on Friday, including eight amendments brought by Senator Johnson Smith.

The Data Protection Act, which seeks to safeguard the privacy and personal information of Jamaicans, was passed in the Senate in June, 2020, a month after it was approved by the House of Representatives.

However, as outlined in Clause 76 of the DPA, a transition period had to be established to allow data controllers time to take the steps necessary to ensure full compliance with the legislation. The period also facilitates other administrative processes.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, said during the DPA debate in the House last year, that the Act will strengthen the Government’s ability to protect the privacy of Jamaicans. Consequently, he said the DPA is integral to the implementation of the NIDS.

The DPA provides guidelines on how personal data should be collected, processed, stored, used and disclosed in physical or electronic form. It also requires that data should only be obtained for specific lawful purposes, with the consent of the individual, and not to be further used or processed in any way incompatible with the original purpose.

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