Why is MCMC breaking its own law, asks lawyer

Lawyers for Liberty chief Eric Paulsen cites regulation under CMA 1998 which defines the unsolicited message from MCMC as ‘spam’.

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) could be guilty of contravening the same Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA 1998) it was celebrating by sending out an SMS blast to mobile phone subscribers in the country .

This is the view of Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen who said that the message was sent out unsolicited to the masses.

“As this was an unsolicited message sent to the public without their consent, MCMC’s act falls squarely within the definition of ‘spam’, as set out in their 2004 report on ‘Regulating Unsolicited Commercial Messages’, and also possibly under Section 233(1)(b) CMA 1998.

“Further, in failing to include an opt-out option to allow recipients to remove themselves from the messaging list, it has run afoul of its own recommendations, as stated in paragraph 11 of the same report,” Paulsen said in a statement.

It was reported yesterday that many Malaysians had received the message, some more than once, with many prominent personalities tweeting their reaction on the unsolicited message.

Social activist Marina Mahathir was among those who shared a screenshot of the message that she received from “MCMC”.

“Anyone else got this? They forgot who set up MCMC izzit? Tsk, tsk! #GE14” she wrote on her Twitter account.

Lawyer-activist Shahredzan Johan, who received the message twice, said: “Yes, MCMC sent me twice. Just in case, I didn’t get the first one.”

PKR’s communications director Fahmi Fadzil tweeted: “When @SKMM_MCMC drops unannounced. #ThanksNoThanks”.

Paulsen said that as the country’s regulator for all digital communications, it is “shocking and appalling” for MCMC to contravene its own guidelines on preventing spam.

“It is completely unacceptable that while demanding commercial service providers such as telco companies to be held to high standards of conduct when handling consumer data, the regulators themselves see fit to dispatch a mass political message that is of no value.

“The gravity of this breach cannot be understated,” he said.

He added that it is also a misuse of the privilege MCMC has in having access to all registered mobile phone numbers in Malaysia.

“With this data comes a responsibility, to ensure that it is not misused, in line with its role, as defined in the CMA 1998.

“This right to privacy and the protection of consumer data are further supported by the Personal Data Protection Act 2010, which seeks to prevent improper usage of personal data in commercial transactions.”

Paulsen criticised MCMC further, saying it had proven time and time again that it is unworthy of this responsibility as regulator of the digital communications, multimedia, media and broadcasting industries.

“The regulator’s image lies in tatters following the various scandals of the past few years.

“Most notably, the massive personal data breach that came to light in 2017 following MCMC’s questionable dealings with Neumera Sdn Bhd. This resulted in the breach of personal data of more than 46 million mobile phone subscribers.”

Paulsen also asked MCMC why it did not send out an alert on the possible data breach if it had this ability to do a mass SMS blast.

“Why, at the time of the data breach, did MCMC not send out messages to affected individuals warning them that their data may have been exposed?

“Instead, why has this ability been misused to urge the public to ‘celebrate’ the 20th anniversary of the CMA 1998, a rather bizarre exhortation to say the least,” he said.

Paulsen called for MCMC to focus on its job and take its responsibilities more seriously as its integrity and respectability as a regulator were at stake.

Is MCMC now sending spam messages to people’s phones?