Bahamas Information Services Updates
Bahamas Government Focuses on Data Protection
By Betty Vedrine, BIS and Gena Gibbs, BIS
Nov 1, 2013 - 2:46:02 PM


Nassau, Bahamas – As new forms of communication continue to pervade every society in the world, countries have to ensure that personal data is protected. To this end, the Government of the Bahamas enacted the Data Protection (Privacy of Personal Information Act 2003 and established the Data Protection Commissioner’s Office in 2007.

During the first National Training Symposium held at the Sheraton hotel on Thursday October 31, Prime Minister Perry G Christie said that the Bahamas must ensure that all measures are taken to ensure the privacy of personal information in the country.

“Everywhere in the world new communication, information and social media technologies are becoming pervasive in the use and conduct of business,” he said.  “The Bahamas is no exception to this change and growth and because e-business is becoming so prevalent, it is important that we stay competitive in terms of becoming a completely safe place for people to do business.”

Mr. Christie said that a great part of what the Government has done, as a part of its plan to build a modern, strong, consistent and comprehensive legal framework is to show that The Bahamas is a safe place for companies to process personal data. One of the ways to show the important emphasis that was placed on this initiative was the appointment of a Data Protection Commissioner. Currently, Mrs. Sharmie Farrington Austin serves in that capacity in the Office of The Prime Minister.

Mr. Christie also quoted Mrs. Austin, in saying that: “The Bahamas leads the Caribbean region in setting the legal framework for the collection, use and disclosure of personal information, which is consistent with internationally recognised principles established by the Council of Europe, the European Union, the OCED and the United Nations.”  He believes that this puts the country in an excellent position.  

He added that the establishment of the proper legal framework will help to establish The Bahamas as a safe place to do business and this will encourage economic growth.  “Meeting international standards and reforming our data protection act and practices will put us in the perfect position to become “a preferred jurisdiction for locating data services industries”, and therefore grow our economy. Viviane Reding, Vice President for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, European Commission said that “Personal data is the currency of today’s digital market.And like any currency it needs stability and trust.”

He explained that like any currency, people ‘want a lot of it and they want to use it how they wish.’  

“This is why data protection of personal and business information is critical.  During this symposium I am confident that all participants will learn a lot concerning data protection and cyber crime.  Cyber crime is becoming a great concern and I am pleased that there is police and criminal justice cooperation at this symposium,” he said.

During the symposium three experts in the area of data protection were also honoured. They included: Mrs. Rowena Bethel, principal architect of The Bahamas’ e-commerce legislation; Mr. George Rodgers, the first Data Protection Commissioner; and Superintendent Paul Rolle, the former head of Cyber Crime. 

Finance Ministry launches Data Protection Training Symposium
by Gena Gibbs

Nassau, The Bahamas --  Countering cyber crime with a data protection software system, the Bahamas Government provides security of information to citizens and residents throughout the archipelago. 

"It is my privilege to attend this historic first National Training Symposium on data protection under the theme 'Data Protection in a 21st Century World', said State Minister for Finance, Michael Halkitis at the Oct. 31, 2013 training session, at the Sheraton Resort, West Bay Street.

He said the world is changing and the flow of information between jurisdictions is critical to survival in a world connected by technology.

Mr. Halkitis said in The Bahamas, data protection is vital to the sustainability of the banking and financial systems, and the protection of personal information.  He noted that data protection provisions are included in various TIEA agreements."

Minister Halkitis said privacy is an important right and a fundamental right recognised in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, as well as in the Bahamian Constitution.

"The Bahamas' Data Protection (Privacy of Personal Information) Act, 2003, was introduced as a part of a three piece legislative package to promote e-commerce.  Consumers need to be assured that there are uniform sets of rules which deal with the global transmission of their personal information," said Minister Halkitis.

"Such training as provided today by the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner is commendable in that it educates participants on safeguarding their personal information and promotes privacy awareness among our citizens.  I take this opportunity to congratulate Commissioner Farrington Austin and her staff for taking such a proactive and bold step in establishing a national training symposium on data protection.  Prevention is always better than cure."

Minister Halkitis said he recognised that The Bahamas' Data Protection Office was the recent focus of an article in the worldwide publication of Privacy Law and Business Magazine.

"Such international exposure will auger well in promoting The Bahamas as a jurisdiction for the relocation for data services.  The Ministry of Finance is committed to the extent possible in ensuring that The Bahamas is compliant with international standards in relation to the collection, use, and disclosure of data," said Minister Halkitis.

"Further, I note that this training takes a collaborative approach and brings together industry stakeholders from both the public and private sectors.  The synchronised effort of the public and private sector is critical to the development of our nation.  Therefore, it is my hope that we will see more joint efforts between the private and public sector in other initiatives."

Minister Halkitis said that he trusts the participants will benefit from the seminar and encouraged them to remain and celebrate with industry experts and pioneers being honoured as well.

"These persons, Mrs. Rowena Bethel, Mr. George Rodgers and Superintendent Paul Rolle have made tremendous contribution to our country and are most deserving of recognition," said Minister Halkitis.

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