Private security officers in Singapore, when detaining individuals for criminal offences, should not collect, use or disclose the suspect’s full NRIC numbers as this may be in breach of the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA).
However, they are allowed to collect NRIC numbers for visitor entry into sensitive places such as data centres or bank vaults due to the significant security concerns involved.
These are among the common scenarios spelt out in a guidebook for security officers on PDPA regulations related to the collection of NRIC and other national identification numbers.
The guidebook was launched by the Security Association Singapore (SAS) at its annual Security Officers Day Awards.
The launch comes ahead of rules which kick in on Sept 1 that would make it illegal for organisations to collect, use or disclose NRIC numbers or make copies of the identity card.
Under the PDPA, security agencies would be obliged to ensure that any personal data such as NRIC numbers, birth certificate numbers, FINs and work permit numbers, would be “sufficiently secure” and cannot be accessed by unauthorised parties. In addition, security agencies must ensure that the data collected by its officers is not retained for a period longer than is necessary for legal or business purposes.
Where it is not allowed under the PDPA to collect such data, but is necessary to verify a person’s identity such as in the event where a suspect is caught for trespassing, the guidebook suggests officers may instead visually inspect the suspect’s NRIC and note down his partial NRIC number, mobile number, full name, or postal code of his registered address.
At the event, Minister of State for Manpower and National Development, Zaqy Mohamad, also revealed that working conditions for security officers have improved with data showing that more of them clocked shorter overtime hours last year.
The number of licensed security agencies that applied to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to allow their officers to work longer overtime hours than is legally permissible fell by nearly 25 per cent – from 174 in 2017 to 134 in 2018 – said Mr Zaqy. Under the Employment Act, working hours for security officers including overtime cannot exceed 12 hours a day. In addition, overtime hours cannot exceed 72 hours in a month.
Companies that require their employees to do so would have to apply for an overtime exemption from MOM, which allows employees to work up to 95 hours of overtime a month, or up to 14 hours a day. However, from Jan 1, 2021, MOM will no longer grant overtime exemptions, to improve the working conditions of security officers.