CTM advised to improve customers’ right to know

Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Issue 837, Page 3
Word count: 864
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

The Office for Personal Data Protection (GPDP) advised telecom operator CTM to strengthen protection of its customers’ right to information as prompted by a complaint from a landline phone user.

The GPDP prepared an opinion report in response to the complaint that accused CTM of having published the complainant’s registration information including the name, telephone number and address on the Macau Residential Telephone Directory for public access without getting his consent.

It also said that CTM allegedly violated the Personal Data Protection Act and thus afterwards the GPDP investigated into the matter.

According to the Public Telecommunications Service Concession Contract, CTM is obligated to produce the telephone directory and Yellow Pages until the current concession expires on December 31, 2011.

In the opinion report, the GPDP said CTM clarified the complaint by saying that in their Application Form for Fixed Telephone Line, there is a “Telephone Calling Features” item that allows users to indicate whether or not they want to keep their phone numbers confidential.

The telecom operator also said that when a customer is applying for the landline service, front-line staff will explain to them that the “Telephone Calling Features” item includes restrictions to incoming calls, the phone number not to be published on the telephone directory either in print or online, and not to be revealed on Hotline 181 and 185.

Therefore, the GPDP said since CTM customers are able to control how their registration information will be handled, in other words the telecom company has already obtained the consent from the customers to disclose their personal data on the telephone directory.

That means CTM is deemed not to have breached the Personal Data Protection Act, the report further stated.

On the other hand, Directel Macau Ltd has been authorised by CTM to publish the telephone directory for 18 years. By law Directel Macau Ltd is a sub-contractor and hence the GPDP said it also has the legitimacy to handle personal data.

However, at the same time the GPDP pointed out that the content of the oral explanations given by front-line staff to landline service applicants could be influenced by “the emotion of the staff, service targets and environmental factors”.

The office also highlighted that most of the items in the Application Form for Fixed Telephone Line are in English, such as personal data, application items, bill information, confidentiality clause and change of personal data, except the terms and conditions regarding installation fees are written in Chinese.

Not only does the situation fail to comply with the regulations in the Macau Basic Law and the Public Telecommunications Service Concession Contract, the GPDP said it also causes certain damage to the right to information of some users who are not good at English.

The government statistics showed that the majority of the Macau population are Chinese, while non-Chinese residents account for around six percent.

The GPDP suggested CTM setting precise internal policies or guidelines in order to standardise front-line staff members’ explanations to customers, listing the rights and obligations users have in the application forms, providing application forms in Chinese and other languages, and also clearly indicating what the selection of “confidential” covers.

In addition, since February 9, 2001 landline phone users are no longer required to pay for keeping their phone numbers confidential.

However, the GPDP said some residents might not know about the fee adjustment and chose not to keep their numbers off the record. The office advised CTM to promote such free service to the public so that they will know how to exercise their right.

On the other hand, in regard to the electronic telephone directory (or commonly known as “White Pages”), anyone can access to all related users’ names, telephone numbers and addresses by just entering an user’s full name or family name.

The GPDP pointed out that some individuals or organisations might make bulk copies of the personal data online and upload them to another system to create a database for other or even illegal purposes.

Hence, it urged CTM and Directel Macau Ltd to adopt corresponding measures to protect the safety of the personal data available on the Internet.

Lastly, the GPDP suggested that when the next Public Telecommunications Service Concession Contract is signed, terms of specific responsibilities of the telecom entity regarding the production of the telephone directory should be clearly indicated.

CTM in response to the report issued a statement in which it said it “welcomes the opinions” and will take them into future reference.

“The company always treats the opinions from the Macau community as a key indicator leading to continuous improvement of our service quality…,” the statement added.

The telecom operator also said that it has deployed a variety of measures to cope with residents’ demands and social development, including “strengthening staff training to ensure clear understanding of the personal data protection regulations, improving staff members’ communications skills and streamlining the handling process of customer information”.

The company will continue to develop an internal electronic system to manage customers’ personal data in order to simplify the manual procedures, CTM added.

In the meantime, the GPDP said it welcomes CTM’s actions and believes that “constructive improvement measures will better protect clients’ personal information”.

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