Data protection law heading for cabinet approval

With hacking and security breaches becoming more frequent around the world, Thailand is preparing better protections for its peoples’ privacy online as the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society said it will submit a draft bill on data protection to the cabinet of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha by the end of this month before it heads to the legislature for passage.

“I think that the new law will focus on protecting data for the benefit of people in Thailand. It will also be of a standard to support international law. As such, it will create confidence for businesses and people related to data privacy,” said Pichet Durongkaveroj, the Minister of Digital Economy and Society.

Protecting internet users’ information and privacy has become a prominent issue both globally and locally in recent weeks. The revelation that third parties were able to harvest information from the accounts of millions of Facebook users led to hearings in the United States Congress and calls for tighter regulations. In Thailand, newspapers recently reported that one of the country’s largest telecoms companies and internet providers suffered a data breach that allowed outsiders to access tens of thousands of customers’ personal information.

The draft law clearly defines data protection, the minister said, and covers data owners, data controllers and data processors. Controllers and processors must ask for and receive permission from their customers to use or share their data, under the draft law. While the draft contains specific punishments for misuse of data, the minister declined to specify what they were until the Cabinet approves the bill.

Pichet said that the new law was based upon and will be in line with the new European Union (EU) General Data Protection Regulation, which will come into effect on May 25 and affects local businesses involved with EU citizens’ data.

The bill will also allow for the establishment of a National Cybersecurity Agency and a Data Protection Knowledge Center. The center will serve to educate the public about data and online security and will be run by the Electronic Transactions Development Agency (ETDA), which will also serve as the cybersecurity agency until the official national agency is up and running.

Thailand spent $212 million on cybersecurity in 2017, and the outlays are expected to reach $243 million this year. It is expected that Thailand’s cybersecurity spending in 2025 will climb to US$511 million, according to Frost & Sullivan, IDC and Gartner.