Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Computing Professionals Bill 2011: An Orwellian "Big Brother"

The draft Computing Professionals Bill 2011 (CPB2011) which is currently being circulated for "consultation" is an attempt by MOSTI to regulate all "computing services" provided to entities or persons related to the "critical national information infrastructure" (CNII).

"Computing services" is defined as any services provided to "plan, architect, design, create, develop, implement, use and manage information technology systems". Based on this definition, the scope of such services would cover anything from designing websites to the setting up of computer servers to the design and development of any computer products - whether software or hardware. In fact, one would easily classify the setting up of blogs and news portals, or even use of Facebook and Twitter accounts as being covered under "computing services".

"CNII" on the other hand, is defined as "those assets, systems and functions that are vital to the nation that their incapacity or destruction would have a devastating impact on National economic strength or National image or National defense and security or Government capability to function or Public health and safety".

CNII could hence cover any entity in the Government, financial institutions and government linked companies. What is absolutely frightening is the definition would also cover all the way to any website, portal or information technology application which could have a detrimental impact on the "National image" or deemed to hurt the "Government's capability to function".

Any ambiguity in the law shall be determined by the 15 imember "Board of Computing Professionals" appointed at the sole discretion of the Minister, and subjected only to the Minister's approval.

Contrary to the clarification statement made by MOSTI, which claimed that the bill does not restrict the practise of "computing services" and is only limited to CNII, the bill has pervasive and damaging consequences not only on the information technology industry, but also infringes on key Goverment commitments under the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) Bill of Guarantees.

The Bill of Guarantees have promised "unrestricted employment of knowledge workers" and "no censorship of the Internet". However the CPB 2011 will clearly restrict the hiring of knowledge workers by necessitating registration. Similarly, the CPB 2011 as it is currently defined could be used to register, regulate and restrict the activities of individuals or corporations to publish news reports or those who use Facebook, Twitter or other similar applications with the excuse of protecting the "National image".

It is clear that the flimsily drafted CPB has the Orwellian "big brother" fingerprints all over it.

The information technology and computing industry has been operating without controversy, issues or impediment for the past decades. There is absolutely no bureaucratic requirement to restrict and control the industry, which will only bring adverse outcomes without any corresponding tangible benefit.

I will personally attend the CPB 2011 Open Day organised by MOSTI tomorrow to hear the Ministry's clarifications on the bill, and to submit the relevant points of objection.
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