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Monday, October 3, 2022
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Anti-smoking Bill grants authorities power to access one’s digital device and they can make a copy of all data for safekeeping

Health minister Khairy Jamaluddin has been pushing for the Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill 2022, also known as the tobacco generational endgame law, to be passed in the Dewan Rakyat.

The proposed Bill states that children born in 2007 and the subsequent years will be prohibited from smoking, buying or possessing any type of smoking products.

While the intention of the Bill is targeted at wiping out the bad habit of smoking from the future generations, it also gave the Malaysian government some terrifying new powers.

Source: S2S

In Part 9 of the bill that details the ‘Enforcement’ activities, it states that powers are granted to authorities if they suspect an individual of possessing tobacco products or substitutes, including the ability to open up one’s bag or package, stop and search their vehicle and forcibly open enter their home to search and seize (with or without a warrant, might we add), including body searches.

However, this is not the scariest part of the Bill as the most Orwellian part of the proposed legislation is Section 34, which enables enforcement personnel to access an individual’s personal data. This includes the right for them to seize your devices.

Yes, this means that you’ll be legally required to give up the password to your phone, tablet or computer. In addition, the Bill grants the authorities the power to make copies of said data or take extracts.

Meanwhile, many lawmakers and analysts have taken online to criticise such clauses in the Bill. These include Bandar Kuching MP and chair of the Parliamentary Special Select Committee (PSSC) of Health, Science and Innovation, Dr Kelvin Yii, who urged the government to reconsider punishments against minors. He also suggested a delay of 3 years to give enough time to assess the government’s preparedness and the effectiveness of the plan.

On the other hand, Syahredzan Johan, a lawyer and DAP’s social media bureau chair, has also expressed his disagreement on the Bill.

Nonetheless, not only the Opposition has disagreed with this. Pengerang MP Azalina Othman Said of UMNO, who chairs another PSSC on Women and Children Affairs and Social Development, wants to review the bill to make sure it conforms to the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Malaysia ratified the global treaty in 1995.

What the ministry have to say?

According to Mohamed Azmadi Mohamed Samsuddin, health minister Khairy Jamaluddin’s special function officer, he explained that the clause that grants officers access to computerised data is nothing new, with provisions already written into several acts. He then gave an example of the Sales Tax and Service Tax Act, which the previous Pakatan Harapan administration signed into law in 2018.

However, Syahredzan pointed out that the Sales Tax Act imposes limits on said access, whereas the GEG bill doesn’t. He said that any any authorised enforcement officer operating under any aspect of the act will be able to obtain personal data, making it ripe for abuse.

He added that he does not oppose the bill as a whole but he only wants certain provisions to be tightened to safeguard people’s rights.

What do you think about this? Share your thoughts!

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