July 28, 2017

Intellectual Property & Technology Partner Jack Ow quoted in TODAY on how the “standard of harm” could be interpreted differently with reference to the recent changes to the Personal Data Protection Act

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing's Intellectual Property & Technology Partner Jack Ow was quoted in TODAY on how the “standard of harm” could be interpreted differently with reference to the recent changes to the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA).   This article was first published in TODAY on 28 July 2017. Informing customers of breaches among proposed PDPA changes Source: TODAY © Mediacorp Press Ltd. Date: 28 July 2017 Author: Tan Weizhen SINGAPORE — Under a slew of proposed changes to the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA), companies would have to notify customers as soon as possible if their data — such as NRIC numbers, credit card information or passwords — had been compromised. Businesses would have to inform the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) within 72 hours if they were hit by significant data breaches — when personal data of 500 or more consumers has been compromised. In the first major review of the Act, which came into effect in 2014, they could also be allowed to use consumers’ personal data without getting their consent in certain cases. This and other proposals were put up for public consultation on Thursday (July 27). The PDPA currently requires an individual’s consent if an organisation wants to collect their personal data. Announcing the review at the Personal Data Protection Seminar on Thursday, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said the PDPA was crafted in an era when “the majority of data was provided by users who fill in their personal particulars via physical and online forms”.  “Today, data can be generated and mined through online activities and transactions,” he told the seminar at Sands Expo and Convention Centre. Under the proposals, if companies wish to use customer data for legal or business purposes in situations where it is not appropriate to get their consent, they can do so provided it will be of “larger benefit to the public”. For example, bicycle-sharing services may want to share, among themselves, data of customers with a track record of misusing or damaging bikes. In cases when it is impractical to get consent, firms could use customer data provided it caused no “harm” to them, such as leading to calls or spam.  For example, a developer of web-connected devices, like a smartwatch, may want to analyse users’ data to improve its services, but might not be able to get consent through the smartwatch interface. Under the proposals, it would be allowed to do so as long as it did not harm the consumers. The proposed rules would just require the businesses to notify customers in any manner of their choosing, such as via their websites. Mr Bryan Tan, of law firm Pinsent Masons, said the proposals offer “a more graduated approach”, adding: “It is a more refined way of giving businesses more options.” On whether the criteria that businesses would have to meet before doing away with customers’ consent are sufficiently watertight, Mr Tan said the onus would lie on businesses to make that judgment — for example, whether customers would suffer harm as a result. However, Mr Jack Ow, intellectual property & technology partner at RHTLaw Taylor Wessing, believes that “harm” may be interpreted differently by different organisations: “It remains open as to how the standard of harm should be assessed, and if objectively assessed, on whose or what standards, principles and/or morality.” The proposals are up for public consultation until Sept 21. The PDPC hopes to implement them by 2019.
July 28, 2017

Banking & Finance Partner Gerard Ng shares with The Business Times the uncertainty of applicability of Singapore law to virtual currency or related technology, in response to “proptech” companies using blockchain platforms to “tokenise” property

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing's Banking & Finance Partner Gerard Ng shared with The Business Times on the uncertainty of applicability of Singapore law to virtual currency or related technology, in response to “proptech” companies using blockchain platforms to “tokenise” property. This article was first published in The Business Times on 28 July 2017. Singapore firms dip toes into blockchain tech for property Source: The Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Date: 28 July 2017 Author: Lee Mexian AT LEAST two Singapore "proptech" companies are using blockchain platforms to "tokenise" property - that is, to create tokens backed by real estate which investors can buy. It is a pioneering move that is nascent even globally - and is such a new idea that there does not seem to be explicit existing legislation in Singapore governing these digital instruments. The two companies are FundPlaces and Reidao. Three weeks ago, FundPlaces went ahead and launched its real estate-backed cryptocurrency called Tiles. Investors are issued these digital tokens in exchange for Singapore dollars, with each token being entitled to the cashflow of the underlying real estate investment which it references. (Most of FundPlaces' projects for which it is raising funds are in Australia and the UK.) A blockchain is basically a way to maintain a database without a central authority. It makes it feasible to have a fully distributed database in which users always have the most updated version of the database. FundPlaces' co-founder and chief executive Brian Wee named three advantages of using blockchain: It makes it transparent for investors, as every transaction is recorded and visible on the chain; It reduces the cost of investment, since there are no asset managers involved; and It improves the liquidity of real estate, because the capital outlay for buying a token is much smaller than that for an entire property. The response has been encouraging so far, he added. Within two weeks of launch, FundPlaces raised £200,000 (S$355,808) for the co-financing of a UK residential development project. It also raised about A$30,000 (S$32,534) out of a targeted A$500,000 for another residential development project in Perth. Both projects are targeted to offer returns of 15 per cent or higher. Asked for its stance on such instruments, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) cautioned caveat emptor ("Buyer, beware"), citing the potential abuse of such platforms for criminal activity. Its spokeswoman said: "The anonymity afforded by such new technologies and products, as well as the potentially wider reach at faster speeds, could certainly allow criminals to abuse them to cloak their illicit activities and gains. "Whether the offer and exchange of digital tokens on blockchain-enabled platforms constitute an activity to be regulated by the MAS depends on the facts of the case. MAS is closely watching this space." The regulator added that platforms and products that fall within the Securities and Futures Act (SFA) and Financial Advisers Act (FAA) will have to be regulated, and be subject to obligations to counter money laundering and the financing of terrorism. This will apply no matter where their investors are based - a pertinent point, given that online blockchain platforms essentially open the floodgates for investors from across the world to take part in deals. Gerard Ng, a partner in the banking and finance practice at RHTLaw Taylor Wessing, had helped FundPlaces draft its documentation and structure its transactions. He described the job as "novel" but "not easy". He said he had to start with the most basic of definitions, for instance by answering the question of whether the digital token, Tile, is considered to be a security, which would subject it to the SFA. He decided that it was not, because it was neither a debt nor equity instrument. Because FundPlaces does not dispense advice on corporate finance, he concluded that this would exempt it from the need to apply for a licence to operate, as required under the FAA. He said: "Our laws were not designed with virtual currency or related technology in mind. Businesses that offer products and services using innovative technology have to deal with issues surrounding the uncertainty of the applicability of certain laws to such products and services." In this regard, the US appears to be a step ahead. The Securities and Exchange Commission this week said companies that raise money through the sale of digital assets must adhere to federal securities laws and must register the deals with the government, as should exchanges that offer trading of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and ether. Mg Ng said: "Existing legal regimes are still applicable and relevant, and must be looked at in detail. Structuring the transaction involved lateral thinking and copious research to understand the technology, the products and business model." He also referred to existing laws such as contract law to develop a set of rules to govern the legal relationship between his client, FundPlaces, and its investors; he also had to consider laws governing real estate in the jurisdictions in which the properties are located. Meanwhile, Reidao is beating its own path. Its co-founder and chief executive Darvin Kurniawan said that its blockchain platform is still at the proof-of-concept stage; it is planning to test it by acquiring three properties in Malaysia next month and allowing the community to subscribe to them. Unlike FundPlaces, which uses its own private blockchain platform - meaning that only its members have access to it and only the operator can add blocks to the chain - Reidao uses the public Ethereum blockchain. It also uses the gold-backed token called DGX, which is more stable than the volatile Bitcoin and Ether. How the process works: When the full amount for a property has been raised in tokens, Reidao liquidates this amount to buy the property in the local fiat currency. At distribution time, cash is converted back to gold and then to DGX, which is paid out to token holders. Mr Kurniawan said his company had contacted MAS when it started working on the idea, but the central bank did not "make any real comments" due to the lack of legislation to instruct the process. Reidao is now just observing the relevant rules, such as laws on trust entities, into which it plans to place its properties. Both FundPlaces and Reidao recognise the risk that "dirty" money can be laundered through their platforms. To overcome this, they have put in place know-your-customer (KYC) and due-diligence processes at the pre-registration phase. FundPlaces' Mr Wee said, for example, that his outfit requires its Singapore investors to have a local bank account, so the banks (and their own KYC processes) act as a "first shield". FundPlaces plans to expand to Australia, China or India. Mr Wee said: "It is probably a little less risky now, because we are dealing mainly in Singapore and funds come in from people with Singapore bank accounts. But once we start going overseas, there will be much higher risks." Mr Ng from RHTLaw added that no platform operator can guarantee that its platform is not being used to launder money: "Despite the negativity associated with payment using virtual currency due to the use of Bitcoin as payment for illicit goods and to launder money, the fact remains that virtual currency can be an ideal and a legitimate means of payment for goods and services," he said.
July 25, 2017

Family & Matrimonial Partner Michelle Woodworth’s comments in The Straits Times shows she is supportive of the proposed changes to the Criminal Procedure Code aimed at protecting vulnerable persons

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing’s Family & Matrimonial Partner Michelle Woodworth’s comments in The Straits Times shows she is supportive of the proposed changes to the Criminal Procedure Code aimed at protecting vulnerable persons. The article was first published in The Straits Times on 25 July 2017. Greater protection may encourage more victims to report crime Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Date: 25 July 2017 Author: Ng Huiwen The proposed legal changes that are aimed at protecting vulnerable persons could help more to come forward and minimise further damage to them, said lawyers, law academics and advocacy groups. Criminal lawyer Hamidul Haq said the automatic issuing of gag orders and in-camera hearing will give victims greater confidence in reporting a crime. Currently, "gag orders need to be applied for in court and before this can be done, there may be a risk of the information going public", said Mr Haq, a partner at Rajah & Tann Singapore. He added that social media, in particular, has made it easier to track a person down and may be a platform for "many nasty reactions", causing embarrassment to the victim. RHTLaw Taylor Wessing family lawyer Michelle Woodworth lauded the move to allow victims to be shielded from the view of the accused person, through a physical screen, while they provide testimony in court. This would go a long way in reducing stress on the victim, empowering the person to speak without fear and secure redress without reliving the abuse by coming into contact with, or within sight of, the aggressor during the court process, she said. Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) executive director Corinna Lim said that the recovery process for survivors of sexual assault can be adversely affected if they have to recount their experiences multiple times. EASIER ON THE VICTIM Further, taping a victim interview provides a more reliable method of documentation than written notes. In other words, it provides the 'best record' of the interview. MS CORINNA LIM, executive director of Aware, on the advantage of video-recorded statements. BETTER SYSTEM This allows for a more mature system, where some psychiatrists can focus on treatment, while others give expert opinion. DR LIM BOON LENG, a psychiatrist in private practice, on the proposal to pick psychiatrists from a court-administered panel. This can be minimised with the introduction of video-recorded statements, which can be used in place of a victim's testimony in court. Ms Lim said: "Further, taping a victim interview provides a more reliable method of documentation than written notes. In other words, it provides the 'best record' of the interview." However, she said there is a chance that victims could get confused or block out parts of the incident while giving the video- recorded statement. A possible option would be for judges to be trained to properly understand victims' behaviour and psychology before the scheme begins, she said. Other changes in the area of enhancing court procedures include allowing only psychiatrists from a court-administered panel to give evidence on criminal cases. The courts, in some past cases, have noted that psychiatric expert evidence lacked objectivity and competence. The panel will admit qualified psychiatrists for a term of two years. Welcoming the move, Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist in private practice, said: "This allows for a more mature system, where some psychiatrists can focus on treatment, while others give expert opinion." Correction note: The story was edited to correct the spelling of the name of family lawyer Michelle Woodworth. We are sorry for the error. SPH Digital
July 24, 2017

Senior Partner Tan Chong Huat invited to speak at The Law Society of Singapore’s Future Lawyering Conference

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Senior Partner Tan Chong Huat was invited to speak at The Law Society of Singapore’s Future Lawyering Conference 2017. The two-day conference was held from 20-21 July 2017 at The Joyden Hall, Bugis+. Chong Huat was part of the panel discussing the topic “New Practice Models – Regionalisation and ‘Uberisation’ and Legal Services”. ‘Uberisation’ refers to the displacement of traditional retainers by more efficient system that matches supply and demand. He gave insights on how the traditional way of providing legal services is no longer able to meet the demands of the increasingly sophisticated and demanding clientele, as legal services become even more accessible and affordable. Chong Huat’s view on ‘uberisation’ is that technology must work for us and that we not allow it to commoditise service. Technology should be leveraged and when properly applied to our specialty, show ostensibly our intellect, creativity and judgment. On regionalisation, Chong Huat shared that for a law firm to succeed, there must be a group of regionally-minded Partners and lawyers who are ready to invest time and commitment to look beyond Singapore to build their clientele, network and relationship. Chong Huat added that RHTLaw Taylor Wessing’s ASEAN Plus Group (APG) strategy, which the Firm launched in 2014, was a forward-thinking initiative as the Firm saw the necessity to gain a foothold in ASEAN. APG is a membership of top 10 law firms in ASEAN and North Asia, with offices spanning 12 jurisdictions in Singapore, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. The other panellist comprised Matthew Glynn, Managing Director of Global Legal Solutions Group; Chris Woo, Head of Tax at PwC Singapore; and Alex Wong, Co-Chairperson of the event’s organising committee was the moderator. Senior Minister of State for Law and Finance Indranee Rajah, SC gave the keynote address. This conference is timely, especially as the Committee on the Future Economy was established to develop economic strategies for Singapore for the next decade.