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Moving the needle on Jamaica’s data use culture

Daily we allow our data to be collected and used. Sometimes it is being shared and used without our consent — and these abuses often become known to us only when it is too late, such as in the case of identity theft.

So we need greater awareness and protection in Jamaica; and that is why we at SlashRoots welcome the initiative taken by Government to draft the Data Protection Act. Jamaica will be the first in the Caribbean to pass such legislation. SlashRoots has already submitted our proposed changes to Parliament and we feel that whatever is eventually passed must reflect day-to-day Jamaican realities.

Consider yourself. Maybe that you have given your contact details for something at church. But suddenly that data is being used by a third party; and you’re being contacted using that data for something that is decidedly, non-church!

Brother so-and-so is calling in to ask if you want to join a Pyramid Scheme, because he was able to access your contacts from the church mailing list.

Today, too many individuals and businesses consider personal data as a resource to be acquired and exploited by any means necessary. Some view their customer databases, contact lists and online networks as something to be blasted whenever a new opportunity comes up. And for the rest of us, we get spammed with those unwanted messages — sometimes without any way to stop them!

Many of us use personal data without thinking much about how it was acquired, how it should be used, or how long it should be held. The idea of collecting less data, or worse deleting data that is no longer being used is heresy! But has to change. And the new GOJ’s new Data Protection Act or Right is going to play a big role in getting businesses and individuals to rethink how they manage the personal data of others. As a start, it gives Jamaican citizens some important new data rights:

  • The right of consent — individuals must have your consent before they can collect or use your personal data;
  • The right to be informed if a business or individual is processing data about you;
  • The right to request data about yourself from individuals or businesses;
  • The right to have an entity correct data they have on you as an individual;
  • The right to request clarification about how the data is being used;
  • The right to prevent processing likely to cause damage or distress;
  • The right to prevent processing for purposes of direct marketing; and
  • The right to determine whether automated data processing can be used.

Globally, support is building for stronger data protection of individual data. This is going to require a culture shift for individuals and businesses. For now, we Jamaicans are not unique in our ignorance of data protection rules: whether as victims or abusers.

What happened globally with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, and locally with lotto scammers accessing data from call centres, shows how real these threats are to us. It shows us that we need to start thinking about how we use the data of others, and how we share our our own data.

Together with Jamaicans for Justice, the Press Association and the Media Association we will be hosting a Town Hall on Tuesday, May 15th about the Data Protection Act at the UCC Main Campus, 17 Worthington Avenue (New Kingston).

It is free to members of the public. Come and learn about the draft bill, ask any questions you have, and share your suggestions about how Jamaica’s data protection laws should be implemented. You can also follow and contribute to the discussion at #DataProtectionAct.




The SlashRoots Foundation is a social impact organization that designs digital tools and services to transform the relationship between Caribbean governments and their citizens.

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Matthew McNaughton

Matthew McNaughton

Matthew is a Founding Principal of the SlashRoots Foundation. In this role he leads projects that focus on the practical applications of ICTs in development

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