When we announced that Google Maps‘ offline navigation had finally rolled out in Malaysia, many rejoiced, but apparently not everyone is happy with being able to rely on navigation applications just a little more. UMNO lawmaker Datuk Raime Unggi said in Parliament today that Malaysian dependency on navigation apps to find their way around the maze-like labyrinth of Kuala Lumpur’s bustling city centre, was possibly exposing our country to “external threats” from foreign countries.
The Tenom MP proceeded to elaborate that this was because when users use these applications for location searching, it indirectly provides information about Malaysia to external quarters such as the United States and Israel. The reason he cited these two countries, we assume, is because Google is headquartered in the US while Google owned Waze was developed in Israel.
Kuala Selangor MP Datuk Irmohizam Ibrahim said that our nation cannot compromise when it comes to national security. He also brings up the issue about the extent to which our laws could protect such information leaks.
“How far do we have laws that prevent information leaks in the usage of Google Map(s) and Waze?” he asks the Parliament. “Are there laws to make sure national security protected in the usage of such apps?”
Communications and Multimedia Deputy Minister Datuk Jailani Johari reassured the concerned MPs that it was up to the users to decide how much personal information they wished to share and that they could choose to stop using the apps if they disagreed with the privacy policies.
Jailani adds that the apps function based on privacy policies that are agreed upon by the individual and the application provider, be it Waze or Google Maps. If the user decides that they do not want to continue using the service, they can terminate the agreement and the provider will no longer hold on to their data.
“We have yet to receive any report on any apps used for spying purposes.
‘The real issue is that our users are fond of over-sharing private information on the Internet. This results in the information being misused. As a smart internet user, we should have our own controls,” said Jailani, who is also the MP for Hulu Terengganu.
Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed also downplayed the danger claimed to be posed by the navigation applications, saying that these applications have helped citizens navigate more than it helps terrorists. He did however say that he acknowledges the security concerns, but he feels that the pros outweigh the cons.
Kuala Krai MP Dr Mohd Hatta Ramli raised another concern that if the government decides to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) it could give foreign countries access to Malaysian personal data collected by the aforementioned navigation applications.
“Our personal data used to be kept within the borders of the country,” he said. “Now with TPP, we must not allow it to be taken out of the county. We have a lot personal data that we would not like to share with other people.”. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a 12-nation free trade agreement backed by the United States which is set to be debated in Malaysia in January next year.
Opposition MP for Kelana Jaya Wong Chen said that the free trade treaty required Malaysia to allow transfer of electronic information to foreign countries. “TPP prohibition on data localisation laws (Article 14.13) essentially means personal info that is hosted abroad would be subject to different laws on privacy,” he said. Wong further explained that under this, your personal data could be subjected to US surveillance laws such as the US Patriot Act, instead of our own privacy laws.