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Will Increased Penalties Lead to Greater Compliance With the PDPA?

Will Increased Penalties Lead to Greater Compliance With the PDPA?
This post is part of a series relating to the amendments to the Personal Data Protection Act in Singapore in 2020. Check out the main post for more articles!

When the GDPR made its star turn in 2018, the jaw-dropping penalties drew a lot of attention. Up to €20 million, or up to 4% of the annual worldwide turnover of the preceding financial year, whichever is greater, was at stake. Several companies scrambled to get their houses in order. For the most part, the authorities have followed through. We are expecting more too. Is this the same with the Personal Data Protection Act in Singapore too?

Penalties will increase under the latest PDPA amendments.

The financial penalties under Singapore’s Personal Data Protection Act probably garner the most attention. They are still newsworthy even though they have been issued regularly since 2016. The most famous data breach concerning SingHealth resulted in a total penalty of S$1 million. The maximum penalty of $1 million is not negligible. It’s not hypothetical either.

The newest PDPA amendments will now increase the maximum penalty to up to 10% of an organisation’s annual gross turnover in Singapore. To help imagine what this means: According to Singtel’s Annual Report in 2020, operating revenues for Singapore consumers was S$2.11b. The maximum penalty would be at least S$200m.

Is this the harbinger of doom and gloom for local companies? Will local companies scramble to hire personal data specialists like for the GDPR? Will an army of lawyers be groomed to fine-comb previous PDPC decisions to distinguish their clients' cases? Is my CIPP/A finally worth something?

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