Singapore

Marriage registry limits data on portal

ROM redacts full names and IC numbers to prevent misuse of personal data

The Registry of Marriages (ROM) has quietly started redacting the full names and identity card numbers of spouses from its online records.

This comes after public feedback on the possible misuse of personal details, said the Registrar of Marriage, in response to queries from The Straits Times.

The registrar said the redaction was not due to Personal Data Protection Act regulations, which public agencies do not come under.

When asked about cases of misuse, the agency said there was one instance where a couple's personal information on the registry was possibly misused on social media.

The registrar said the couple managed the situation privately, but declined to say more.

The obscuring or removal of text started last November.

While there was not much feedback on possible misuse, said the registrar, lawyers ST spoke to said cases of abuse of public records happen regularly.

Lawyer Rajan Supramaniam said one of his clients lived in fear after receiving threatening notes and having paint splashed on her door because of her former husband's debts with unlicensed moneylenders.

She later learnt loan sharks had found her address after obtaining personal details from ROM's free online searches.

"With just a name and NRIC number, people can trace your whereabouts, and innocent people are harassed as a result," said Mr Supramaniam, who has seen at least six such cases in the past year.

CHECK ON HUSBAND

Lawyer Ravinderpal Singh believed online searches were used mostly for the right purposes, but said cases of abuse will definitely pop up.

He said a client in the United States had engaged his services to check on her husband, who was working in Singapore.

"She suspected that her husband got married here and, through the search, it turned out to be true," he said.

In May 2010, ROM records were made available online, and Singaporeans and permanent residents were each given two free online searches over 12 months.

They could pay $35 for any number of additional searches.

It was reported that the intention was to make it easier for individuals to search the history of prospective spouses, so they could make informed decisions before marriage.

Given the growing concerns with privacy, some lawyers said the redaction is a step in the right direction and "better late than never".

Family lawyer Rina Kalpanath Singh said ROM's move is vital to prevent misuse of data.

"The primary use for this portal to search for marriage history is important, but the names and NRIC numbers are not necessary for that purpose."

Lawyer Gloria James said: "It gives people the due respect and privacy, but does not detract from the good intentions of helping people confirm marriage history."

MINISTRY OF SOCIAL AND FAMILY DEVELOPMENT (MSF)marriageabuse