New Report on Limits of “Consent” in Thailand’s Data Protection Law
Today, the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) and the Asian Business Law Institute (ABLI), as part of their ongoing joint research project: “From Consent-Centric Data Protection Frameworks to Responsible Data Practices and Privacy Accountability in Asia Pacific,” are publishing the tenth in a series of detailed jurisdiction reports on the status of “consent” and alternatives to consent as lawful bases for processing personal data in Asia Pacific (APAC).
This report provides a detailed overview of relevant laws and regulations in Thailand, including:
- notice and consent requirements for processing personal data;
- the status of alternative legal bases for processing personal data which permit processing of personal data without consent if the data controller undertakes a risk impact assessment (e.g., legitimate interests); and
- statutory bases for processing personal data without consent and exceptions or derogations from consent requirements in laws and regulations.
The findings of this report and others in the series will inform a forthcoming comparative review paper which will make detailed recommendations for legal convergence in APAC.
Thailand’s Data Protection Landscape
Thailand’s Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) provides the main requirements under Thai law relating to the collection, use, and disclosure of personal data and establishes Thailand’s Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC), a government agency tasked with supporting the development of personal data protection in Thailand.
Though the PDPA was passed in May 2019, it did not take effect immediately, and there have been a number of major developments in relation to the PDPA throughout 2022. In January 2022, the Thai government officially announced the appointment of the PDPC’s chairperson and members, and in February 2022, the PDPC held its first meeting. In June 2022, the PDPA entered into effect, and PDPC issued a number of subordinate regulations to the PDPA as well as more general guidelines on the rights and requirements under the PDPA for citizens and small business.
This first round of subordinate regulations did not touch on the PDPC’s consent requirements and instead, focused on rules, procedures and exemptions for recording personal data processing, security measures, and administrative penalties. However, it is expected that the PDPC will issue a second round of subordinate regulations specifically regarding consent and notification as PDPC’s parent ministry, the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (MDES) has released a number of draft guidelines on consent and notification for public consultation between 2021 and 2022.
In addition to the PDPA, several other laws and regulations provide for protection of personal data in specific contexts, including the public sector, healthcare, and credit. Under the PDPA, any other law which provides for the protection of personal data in specific scenarios or specific areas takes precedence over the PDPA, except in relation to the PDPA’s requirements for collection, use, and disclosure of personal data.
Consent in the PDPA
The PDPA adopts a similar model to the EU GDPR in which consent is one of several, equal bases for processing personal data under the PDPA.
Generally, under the PDPA, a data controller may not collect, use, or disclose personal data unless the data controller has obtained consent from the data subject or where an alternative legal basis applies, i.e., where the processing of personal data is:
- for the purpose of preparing historical documents or archives in the public interest or in the interests of education, research, or statistics, subject to safeguards prescribed by the PDPC;
- to prevent or suppress danger to a person’s life, body, or health;
- necessary for:
- performing a contract to which the data subject is a party;
- taking steps at the request of the data subject when negotiating a contract;
- performing a task in the public interest;
- exercising official authority that has been vested in the data controller;
- pursuing the legitimate interests of the data controller or a third party, unless such interests are overridden by the fundamental rights of the data subject; or
- complying with a law to which the personal data controller is subject.
If the personal data in question falls within any of the categories of sensitive personal data under the PDPA, then the data controller must either obtain “explicit consent” from the data subject or satisfy one of a number of narrower alternative legal bases under the PDPA in which the processing of sensitive personal data is strictly necessary (such as in emergencies, for medical care or legal claims, or where there is another substantial public interest) or where the risk to the data subject is circumscribed (for example, where the data is only processed within a single, non-commercial organization for legitimate activities and subject to appropriate safeguards).
Under the PDPA, consent must be obtained prior to or at the time of collection, use, or disclosure of the personal data in question. By default, a request for consent must be made explicitly in writing in a format that separates the request for consent from other matters and that is easy for the data subject to understand. The request must also be accompanied by information on the purpose of the collection, use, or disclosure of the personal data.
Data subjects must also be given the option to withdraw consent and an explanation of the effect of doing so. The procedure for withdrawing must not be more difficult than the procedure by which the data controller initially obtained consent.
Read the previous reports in the series here.
Blog Cover Image by Anil Nallamotu on Unsplash