The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner is ramping up its campaign to help organizations protect their information, although interest remains low among Bahamians.
According to its 2011 annual report, public service announcements, social media and conferences throughout the country are being used to deliver the commissioner's message.
The mandate of the office, located in the Ministry of Finance, is not only to protect data in public and private entities, but also facilitate the fair exchange of information. Internet safety and security also falls under its mandate.
George Rodgers, the commissioner, said the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), introduced in Parliament last October, is closely aligned with the work of his organization."There must be a balance between the citizens' right to public information as proffered to by the FOIA and the individuals right to privacy (data protection) under the DPA, as one should not be sacrificed at the expense of the other," Rodgers said.
In 2011, the organization received just five complaints and thirty queries. That compares with six complaints and 32 queries in 2010.
Rodgers insists visits and road trips have been ongoing, with hundreds logged last year. Nevertheless, overall interest among Bahamians on these fundamental human rights issues has been scarce.
A broader awareness should increase complaints and inquiries, according to the report.
The commissioner visited Bank of The Bahamas and S.G. Hambros Ltd., where he participated in several in-house training exercises with selected employees as part of the training commitment of each institution. He remains open and available for speaking engagements.
The website for the commission received a total of 2,687 hits in 2011, a modest increase over 2010, although for much of the year its online presence was down due to technical issues.
In regards to ongoing work on the formation of a credit bureau, the commissioner said he is monitoring the progress being made by Bank of The Bahamas and the Caribbean Regional Technical Assistance Centre "to ensure the privacy rights of our citizenry are protected".
"It is expected that significant progress towards completion of this project will be made by the end of 2012," the report said.
Back in February, senators passed what many consider to be landmark legislation.
The FOI bill, however, does not have an enforcement date. It also reduced the fine an offender will face for contravening the legislation, from $100,000 to $10,000, and has restricted rights to access public information to Bahamians or permanent residents.
"The public sector will need time to be prepared to be responsive to fulfill the requirements of this regime," said John Delaney, former attorney general.
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