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Analysts: Tepid response to Padu due to Malaysians’ suspicions, fears over data privacy and security

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, March 21 — The low registration rate with the Central Database Hub (Padu) that is nearing its March 31 deadline for the public to update their information there suggested lingering distrust towards the government, analysts have suggested.

Speaking to Malay Mail, they said the issue went further than concerns over cybersecurity matters, suggesting that many still do not grasp why such a registration is mandated.

“In Malaysia, the proliferation of data-gathering systems for governmental assistance raises questions about the necessity of Padu. Over the years, citizens have contributed significant information through initiatives like BR1M, Prihatin, STR and E-Kasih, making Padu seem redundant rather than innovative.

“This redundancy is compounded by a disconnect between public and governmental expectations. While citizens anticipate the government’s ability to utilise existing data from agencies like LHDN, KWSP/KWAP and E-Kasih, or even PTPTN among others, governmental reliance on individuals to furnish this data themselves has led to practical challenges,” senior researcher at pollster O2 Malaysia, Anis Anwar Suhaimi, said.

BR1M refers to Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia, Prihatin refers to the Prihatin Rakyat Economic Stimulus Package, while STR refers to Sumbangan Tunai Rahmah. The e-Kasih platform was started with a similar vision to Padu’s, aimed at eradicating poverty.

Padu integrates microdata from various government departments and agencies to create profiles of individuals and households for some 28.3 million Malaysian citizens. — Bernama pic
Padu integrates microdata from various government departments and agencies to create profiles of individuals and households for some 28.3 million Malaysian citizens. — Bernama pic

Padu integrates microdata from various government departments and agencies to create profiles of individuals and households for some 28.3 million Malaysian citizens. — Bernama pic

Anis said that despite warnings from Economy Minister Rafizi Ramli about the potential consequences of non-registration, the lacklustre response suggests a broader scepticism about the government’s capacity to execute swift and effective decisions without facing public backlash.

Moreover, he said public hesitance indicates a deeper concern about the system’s capacity to safeguard sensitive personal information in light of past security incidents.

“For affluent individuals in the T20 or upper M40 brackets, registering with Padu seems unappealing, as they perceive it primarily as a tool for the underprivileged. There are concerns about personal data security, particularly regarding assets not declared to the Inland Revenue Board (IRB).

“The hesitation stems from the reluctance to disclose assets to entities other than IRB, raising fears of potential privacy breaches or misuse of sensitive information. This apprehension extends to those who genuinely require governmental assistance, as past security breaches have already eroded trust in the system,” he added.

On Monday, Rafizi cautioned that individuals who are eligible for government assistance are at risk of being left out from the first round of aid eligibility determination after the targeted subsidy programme is implemented if they do not update their data in Padu.

Instead, he said those individuals would have to wait for the next round when Padu reopens for updates at a regular frequency level that will be determined by the government later.

On Monday, Rafizi cautioned that individuals who are eligible for government assistance are at risk of being left out from the first round of aid eligibility determination after the targeted subsidy programme is implemented if they do not update their data in Padu. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
On Monday, Rafizi cautioned that individuals who are eligible for government assistance are at risk of being left out from the first round of aid eligibility determination after the targeted subsidy programme is implemented if they do not update their data in Padu. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

On Monday, Rafizi cautioned that individuals who are eligible for government assistance are at risk of being left out from the first round of aid eligibility determination after the targeted subsidy programme is implemented if they do not update their data in Padu. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Rafizi said updating Padu by March 31 is important so that existing data can be worked on and algorithm development can be done to determine eligibility parameters including disposable income, family’s basic living expenses and discretionary income.

So far, only 5.43 million people have registered out of the 30.5 million citizens — a mere roughly 18 per cent.

Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research senior fellow Azmi Hassan said that the concerns mostly stemmed from fear over security concerns and doubt over the concept behind the system.

“Firstly, on the security, there are several government agencies whose databases have been hijacked or have been leaked and sold publicly, so the worry is there. And we know that Padu is 100 per cent native, meaning the civil servants created it, so the level of trust in terms of security is very, very low in this case.

“On top of that the concept itself, when Rafizi said that Padu will be used to disburse aid to those who needed it, that is a very loose strategy that sometimes feels like it is just plucked from the air, because they needed a reason as to why Padu was created in the first place,” he said.

Azmi added that this was because at the current stage, those who have been receiving aid, already have their details stored in the needed government databases and do not see any need to re-register on Padu, though he feels they eventually might.

Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research senior fellow Azmi Hassan said that the concerns mostly stemmed from fear over security concerns and doubt over the concept behind the system. — Bernama pic
Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research senior fellow Azmi Hassan said that the concerns mostly stemmed from fear over security concerns and doubt over the concept behind the system. — Bernama pic

Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research senior fellow Azmi Hassan said that the concerns mostly stemmed from fear over security concerns and doubt over the concept behind the system. — Bernama pic

“However, for those who have not been receiving aid or who will not be given aid, there is no reason for them to register with Padu, because when Rafizi said it is to disburse aid for those who needed it, it really backfired because it is a strategy that will not work. Why? It will put off the majority who are not eligible to receive aid and see no reason why they should register and take steps to register and put their details there,” Azmi added.

Carmelo Ferlito, chief executive of the think tank Centre for Market Education, disagreed that cybersecurity is a major factor.

“I think the issue is not much cybersecurity, otherwise we could not justify the high intake that many online applications and games keep on having, and where cybersecurity risks are higher. I think the issue is the idea of disclosing personal information to the government and the fear of the use of this information that the government may do.

“We have an abundant history of how governments tend to exploit citizens rather than being at their service, and the first form of exploitation is taxation and the misuse of honestly earned resources.

“I would add that, if the matter is really on determining who should benefit from subsidies, the government should have enough data thanks to tax returns,” he told Malay Mail.

In January, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim launched Padu — a comprehensive and near real-time national main database that enables more accurate data analytics to be produced as well as for policy formulation and data-driven decision-making processes, besides enabling targeted policy implementation to balance the fiscal position.

Padu integrates microdata from various government departments and agencies to create profiles of individuals and households for some 28.3 million Malaysian citizens.