2015 will be the first full year that Singapore’s Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) is rigorously enforced. So how will things change?

Legislating ethical behaviour

Technological advances and the move to an increasingly digital economy means business, community and government organisations are collecting and storing exponentially greater amounts of data about their clients, members and citizens. Governments around the world in recent years have introduced legislation to ensure organisations use and protect this personal data appropriately.

How will the PDPA affect consumers?

For consumers who’ve always been careful about only supplying their personal data to reputable organisations, the PDPA won’t change much. Reputable organisations already have strong policies in place around not collecting and retaining any more personal data than necessary, safeguarding it strongly and only passing it to third parties in specific circumstances – such as when they believe it will be used to provide relevant and beneficial information or offers.

The major impact the PDPA will have is on those companies that have been less than circumspect in their collection, storage and use of personal data.

Why the PDPA is actually good news for business      

Here are four reasons why what on first glance appears to be an obstacle to businesses marketing their goods and services could provide exciting opportunities.

  1. Especially for smaller to medium-sized businesses, the need to comply with PDPA regulations may provide the impetus to invest in technology – particularly customer relationship management systems – that allows those businesses to maintain up-to-date data about their various consumer segments and, perhaps for the first time, use that data to obtain a granular perspective on those customers’ past and present lifestyles and purchasing behaviours.
  2. In an open-slather environment, there was a very real risk of spam-fatigued consumers tuning out entirely. For example, someone who is receiving 50 emails a day from businesses may decide to simply delete all of them. Someone who is only receiving five, all of which are relevant to his or her interests, is much more likely to pay attention and engage.
  3. Some customers, especially older ones, who would have previously avoided making a purchase if it meant surrendering some of their personal data, will now be far more comfortable doing so given they know the government is regulating what will happen with that data.
  4. Research* conducted by Singtel indicates that the Do Not Call (DNC) Registry could turn out to be a win-win for both consumers and businesses. At least as those surveyed perceived it, those who opted in to DNC were likely to be more cautious about their privacy and less likely to engage in communication from businesses, while those who didn’t were likely to be more open-minded and welcome relevant communication from selected companies. This would seem to suggest that the DNC will prevent businesses from wasting marketing dollars on those who are least likely to purchase their products.

DataSpark, a subsidiary of Singtel group, can assist businesses by providing geolocation analytics, which offer useful insights into where people gather at various times of the day. Singtel carefully protects its customers’ privacy by only ever providing anonymised, aggregated data and always collecting and using that data in an open, honest and transparent manner. Research** indicates that Singtel remains one of the organisations Singaporeans and Singapore residents most trust to safeguard their personal data.

* Privacy Protection Exploratory Research, p26. Qualitative research conducted with focus groups to understand customer sentiments regarding PDPA

** An online quantitative survey of 550 Singtel customers


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