What is a Data Protection Officer (DPO)?

Under the Personal Data Protection Act 2012 (PDPA), companies have to develop and implement practices and policies that are required to meet its obligations under PDPA.

This has to be done by appointing at least one individual as your company’s Data Protection Officer (DPO), who will handle the data protection responsibilities.

Role of a Data Protection Officer (DPO)

A Data Protection Officer plays a big part in your company. More than just ensuring that the Personal Data Protection Act guidelines are met with, a Data Protection Officer is also responsible for turning data protection into a competitive advantage for your company, which would lead to building trust in the wider data ecosystem. 

Who can be the Data Protection Officer of a company?

When choosing a DPO for your company, it can be an existing employee in your company or a third-party. Even though it is not mandatory under Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC)’s law to have the DPO’s details, companies are strongly encouraged to inform them of the details.

When choosing a DPO, companies should assess their needs before appointing a person suitable for the role. Their responsibilities may include:

  • Ensure compliance of PDPA when implementing policies for handling personal data
  • Promote a data protection culture between employees and share personal data protection policies with stakeholders
  • Handle personal data protection queries and complaints
  • Let the management know if any risks arise with regards to personal data
  • Communicate with Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) on data protection matters
Please note that a DPO does not have a minimum age requirement but the appointed person should have appropriate expertise and knowledge to ensure the company complies with PDPA at all times.

Is there a deadline to register your DPO?

There is no deadline when it comes to registering your DPO but it is strongly encouraged to register your DPO as early as possible. By doing this, your DPO can be kept abreast of relevant personal data protection developments in Singapore and more.

Should you wish to know about the process to register or update a Data Protection Officer, please refer to this article: How to register the Data Protection Officer (DPO).

Appointment of a DPO letter

When hiring a DPO, you need to formalise the whole process by writing an Appointment of DPO letter. 

By doing this, it will help your DPO to understand their responsibilities and also reassure your Data Protection Authority that your company has done its part and understands the importance of this appointment.

This letter should contain:

  • Your company’s details and the DPO’s name
  • The term of the appointment
  • The DPO’s tasks
  • The DPO’s position and status within the company
  • closing statement, followed by the names and signatures of the parties to the agreement

How to help your DPO achieve the best results

There are a few ways how you can increase your business capabilities to assist your DPO with fulfilling his/her responsibilities in a more effective way: 

  1. Send for a data protection course  

These courses are important as your DPO can get a better understanding of the scope of his responsibilities and how he/she can take the right steps to make sure your business is complying with the PDPA. 

  1. Keep them updated on the latest news regarding data protection 

There are always new things to learn or get information on. You can subscribe your DPO to PDPC’s newsletter and DPO Connect, where they can get the latest news and stay updated. 

  1. Draft implementations to avoid future risks 

It is advised to put in place physical and online systems that will regulate and monitor the movement of personal data out of your business’s premises and computer systems respectively. Find out more here

Another way is to carry out internal audits to ensure that the processes comply with the PDPA’s guidelines. 

  1. Ensure that your employees know about the data protection processes and frameworks 

It is important to let your employees know about the obligations under PDPA. They should be kept updated on new developments, processes, and also existing laws and contracts that might affect the personal data under your company’s care.

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