Updates on Digital Rights

Situation in Malaysia

By Dr. Jun-E Tan



  • Ongoing political crisis, whereby coalition government of Pakatan Harapan (voted in in 2018) was ousted without a general election, in February 2020

  • Current incumbent has only a thin slice of majority. History of draconian rule, without an election manifesto to keep them accountable

  • Crackdown on refugees and migrants due to Covid-19

Digital Rights Issues in the Time of Covid-19

  • Mass surveillance for public health
  • Prosecutions connected to fake news on the coronavirus
  • Policy direction: move towards digital space

Current data privacy protections

  • Malaysia is fifth worst country for privacy protections and government surveillance, out of 47 countries studied (Comparitech, 2019) - bottom five are Malaysia, Thailand, India, Russia, China
    • Extensive data collection on compulsory national ID card
    • Facial recognition (e.g. border control) and CCTV widely used but few safeguards
    • Data breaches that involved financial and medical details
    • Inter-governmental agency data sharing is in place (MyGDX)
  • Personal Data Protection Act under process of review (source)
  • Advisory issued for data collection during the Covid-19 conditional movement control order can be viewed here

Coronavirus Surveillance

  • Contact tracing apps:
    • MySejahtera: Health self-assessment and access to latest information.  Used by Ministry of Health to track persons under surveillance.
    • GerakMalaysia: Location-based, used by police to manage limited interstate travel (processing applications as well)
    • MyTrace: Bluetooth technology determines duration and distance from one person to another. Location information is collected (?).
    • SELangkah: Visitor registration system in the state of Selangor, using QR code
  • Drones used to monitor places under the enhanced movement control order (EMCO)
  • Facial recognition and thermal scanning software used (source)
  • Google Forms used to collect health data during quarantine, no opting out (source)

Restrictions on FoE online

  • Anti-Fake News Act was scrapped in Dec 2019, but individuals are still prosecuted for spreading dis/misinformation under other laws
    • 268 investigations of Covid-related fake news. 178 are still under investigation; 30 have been charged in court; 11 were issued with warning notices; and 18 people pleaded guilty to the offence under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998. (source)
    • Covid-19 being used as an excuse by political parties to bring back the Anti-Fake News Act

Moving towards the digital

  • Free mobile Internet till the end of the year (between 8am-6pm) (source)
  • Online learning: e.g. partnership with Coursera to upskill unemployed worker (source)
  • Government has allocated RM75mil to promote gig economy and provide a social safety net for workers in the informal sector (source)

Digital Rights: Updates on Malaysia's Situation

By Jun-E Tan

Digital Rights: Updates on Malaysia's Situation

These slides accompanied a five minute presentation as part of a Southeast Asia digital rights check-in for the Internet Freedom Festival. The session was held in June 2020.

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