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The value of differential privacy in establishing an intermediate legal standard for anonymisation in Singapore’s data protection landscape

Reading time: 11 minutes

Written by Nanda Min Htin | Edited by Josh Lee

We’re all law and tech scholars now, says every law and tech sceptic. That is only half-right. Law and technology is about law, but it is also about technology. This is not obvious in many so-called law and technology pieces which tend to focus exclusively on the law. No doubt this draws on what Judge Easterbrook famously said about three decades ago, to paraphrase: “lawyers will never fully understand tech so we might as well not try”.

In open defiance of this narrative, LawTech.Asia is proud to announce a collaboration with the Singapore Management University Yong Pung How School of Law’s LAW4032 Law and Technology class. This collaborative special series is a collection featuring selected essays from students of the class. Ranging across a broad range of technology law and policy topics, the collaboration is aimed at encouraging law students to think about where the law is and what it should be vis-a-vis technology.

This piece, written by Nanda Min Htin, seeks to examine the value of differential privacy an establishing an intermediate legal standard for anonymisation in Singapore’s data protection landscape. Singapore’s data protection framework recognizes privacy-protected data that can be re-identified as anonymised data, insofar as there is a serious possibility that this re-identification would not occur. As a result, such data are not considered personal data in order to be protected under Singapore law. In contrast, major foreign legislation such as the GDPR in Europe sets a clearer and stricter standard for anonymised data by requiring re-identification to be impossible; anything less would be considered pseudonymized data and would subject the data controller to legal obligations. The lack of a similar intermediate standard in Singapore risks depriving reversibly de-identified data of legal protection. One key example is differential privacy, a popular privacy standard for a class of data de-identification techniques. It prevents the re-identification of individuals at a high confidence level by adding random noise to computational results queried from the data. However, like many other data anonymization techniques, it does not completely prevent re-identification. This article first highlights the value of differential privacy in exposing the need for an intermediate legal standard for anonymization under Singapore data protection law. Then, it explains how differential privacy’s technical characteristics would help establish regulatory standards for privacy by design and help organizations fulfil data breach notification obligations. 

Is the PDPA really sufficient to protect our data?

Reading time: 14 minutes

Written by Moo Wen Si, Amelia | Edited by Josh Lee

We’re all law and tech scholars now, says every law and tech sceptic. That is only half-right. Law and technology is about law, but it is also about technology. This is not obvious in many so-called law and technology pieces which tend to focus exclusively on the law. No doubt this draws on what Judge Easterbrook famously said about three decades ago, to paraphrase: “lawyers will never fully understand tech so we might as well not try”.

In open defiance of this narrative, LawTech.Asia is proud to announce a collaboration with the Singapore Management University Yong Pung How School of Law’s LAW4032 Law and Technology class. This collaborative special series is a collection featuring selected essays from students of the class. Ranging across a broad range of technology law and policy topics, the collaboration is aimed at encouraging law students to think about where the law is and what it should be vis-a-vis technology.

This piece, written by Moo Wen Si, Amelia, seeks to examine the sufficiency of the PDPA in today’s world. In a technologically advanced world where e-commerce, cloud computing and data mining are flourishing, data has become one of the most valuable assets in the economy. This has raised concerns as to whether our data is being fully protected from misuse and the remedial actions available in cases of data breaches. In response, the Singapore Parliament enacted the Personal Data Protection Act 2012 (“PDPA”) seeking to protect individuals’ data from misuse by organisations in the private sectors. The PDPA, aimed to be a comprehensive data protection law, is however severely lacking in the protection it affords to individuals. This paper seeks to argue how the PDPA is insufficient to protect one’s data from being misused and the limited recourse that individuals have even when their data privacy has been compromised. 

To what extent is blockchain technology effective in managing IPRs?

Reading time: 13 minutes

Written by Meher Malhotra | Edited by Josh Lee

We’re all law and tech scholars now, says every law and tech sceptic. That is only half-right. Law and technology is about law, but it is also about technology. This is not obvious in many so-called law and technology pieces which tend to focus exclusively on the law. No doubt this draws on what Judge Easterbrook famously said about three decades ago, to paraphrase: “lawyers will never fully understand tech so we might as well not try”.

In open defiance of this narrative, LawTech.Asia is proud to announce a collaboration with the Singapore Management University Yong Pung How School of Law’s LAW4032 Law and Technology class. This collaborative special series is a collection featuring selected essays from students of the class. Ranging across a broad range of technology law and policy topics, the collaboration is aimed at encouraging law students to think about where the law is and what it should be vis-a-vis technology.

This piece, written by Meher Malhotra, seeks to review the extent to which blockchain technology will be effective in managing IPRs. Today, IPR management systems manage intellectual property rights. Nevertheless, over the years, these management systems have not been matching the expectations of IPR owners, as its institutional gaps hamper the ability of such owners to effectively enforce their rights. In light of this, there have been optimistic proposals seeking to replace and improve such a system with the aid of blockchain technology. This, while a viable solution, is easier said than done. Implementing a blockchain-based system has several implications, including gaining legitimacy from courts. In seeking to provide a realistic overview of the extent to which blockchain technology will be effective in managing IPRs, this paper will examine what makes an effective IPR management system and how the blockchain may deliver on that promise. 

How are Non-Fungible Tokens Stolen?

Reading time: 13 minutes

Written by Marilyn Sim | Edited by Josh Lee

We’re all law and tech scholars now, says every law and tech sceptic. That is only half-right. Law and technology is about law, but it is also about technology. This is not obvious in many so-called law and technology pieces which tend to focus exclusively on the law. No doubt this draws on what Judge Easterbrook famously said about three decades ago, to paraphrase: “lawyers will never fully understand tech so we might as well not try”.

In open defiance of this narrative, LawTech.Asia is proud to announce a collaboration with the Singapore Management University Yong Pung How School of Law’s LAW4032 Law and Technology class. This collaborative special series is a collection featuring selected essays from students of the class. Ranging across a broad range of technology law and policy topics, the collaboration is aimed at encouraging law students to think about where the law is and what it should be vis-a-vis technology.

This piece, written by Marilyn Sim, seeks to discuss a question that has as of late not yet been dealt with in most jurisdictions – how are Non-Fungible Tokens (“NFTs”) stolen? More specifically, what does it mean for an NFT to be stolen in fact, and if it can indeed be stolen, what are the chances of an individual reclaiming his or her NFT? This paper surveys available material and comes to the finding that NFTs can be stolen in direct and indirect ways.

Criminalising Offensive Speech Made by AI Chatbots in Singapore

Reading time: 16 minutes

Written by Loh Yu Tong | Edited by Josh Lee

We’re all law and tech scholars now, says every law and tech sceptic. That is only half-right. Law and technology is about law, but it is also about technology. This is not obvious in many so-called law and technology pieces which tend to focus exclusively on the law. No doubt this draws on what Judge Easterbrook famously said about three decades ago, to paraphrase: “lawyers will never fully understand tech so we might as well not try”.

In open defiance of this narrative, LawTech.Asia is proud to announce a collaboration with the Singapore Management University Yong Pung How School of Law’s LAW4032 Law and Technology class. This collaborative special series is a collection featuring selected essays from students of the class. Ranging across a broad range of technology law and policy topics, the collaboration is aimed at encouraging law students to think about where the law is and what it should be vis-a-vis technology.

This piece, written by Loh Yu Tong, demonstrates how Singapore’s present criminal framework is ill-prepared to address offensive speech made by autonomous AI chatbots. The author examines the possible regulatory challenges that may arise, and identifies a negligence-based framework – under which a duty of care is imposed on developers, deployers and malicious third-party interferes – to be preferable over an intent-based one. Other viable solutions include employing regulatory and civil sanctions. While AI systems are likely to become more complex in the future, the author holds out hope that Singapore’s robust legal system can satisfactorily balance the deterrence of harm against the risk of stifling innovation.

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