Frequently Asked Questions

Data Security

Q: I read and hear of horror stories of Internet users who have had their accounts hacked and even their identities stolen. How can I be sure when I use the Internet that I am safe from such attacks?

  • A: Using the Web opens one up to the trade-off between convenience and security. Passwords are widely used on the Internet to ensure the security and confidentiality of data stored on various workstations, servers and in this case, your online account. You should not share your Email ID and Password with anyone because these are the keys to the lock that protects your online identity. Online users should assume that everything done online can be read, intercepted, copied and used by a whole host of people – hackers, state security apparatus, ISP operators, online service providers, company network administrators, employers, other criminals, etc. Because what is sent online can potentially be read by an unintended third party and because the digital format makes it easy to reproduce the content, it is best not to make certain content available online if you cannot risk it being seen by unauthorized people.

Q: Is it possible for my online conversation to be mapped/screened/hacked or fall prey to identity theft?

  • A: Yes, there is a potential for such case to occur.

Q: If I do not want certain group of people to see what I posted online, how do I then decide whether to share/post something online?

  • A: Because what is sent online can potentially be read by an unintended third party and because the digital format makes it easy to reproduce the content, it is best not to make certain content available online if you cannot risk it being seen by unauthorized people.

Q: Is it possible for you to help me check if my account is compromised? 

  • A: It is not possible for us to check if your account is compromised. You will need to change your password immediately to prevent further unauthorized login.

Q: What if I give you my User ID and password?

  • A: You should not share your User/Email ID and Password with anyone because these are the keys to the lock that protects your online identity.

Q: What should I do if I believe my account is compromised?

  • A: If you think your account has been compromised, then the appropriate thing to do is to contact the service provider immediately.

Posting Online

Q: I have posted online about my bad experience with the service of a particular company and the company is requesting for me to remove the post or face legal action. However, the post is true and not defamatory of the company. Does this mean I have lost my rights to post/share my bad experience or warn others about this company even though it is factually correct?

  • A: Postings on the Internet are subject to the same liability as postings in traditional media. This means that defamation law applies. Therefore legal issues such as the meaning of the statements, defences of justification and fair comment come into play and need to be addressed appropriately. Because those who post their bad experience tend to have been emotionally involved (which was why they posted it in the first case), there have been instances where such posts are factually incorrect. This opens up the possibility of a defamation suit by the company.In general, you should aim to resolve any dispute with a company directly with the company. If it involves a consumer matter, you should consult the Consumers Association of Singapore. Because of multiple requests, CASE now has a free service where they offer advice for self-help. Our Singapore law requires you to be a member of CASE in order for CASE to represent you if you which the Association to act on your behalf.

    You should not “spread” your dispute beyond the parties who have an interest to know. That is, you should not tell the whole world via your blog that a certain retailer has done you wrong. The reason is that in the event your account is even slightly factually inaccurate, you can be sued. However, if the error is confined to parties who have an interest to know, you may be able to raise the defence of qualified privilege.

Q: Does removing the brand/name of that particular company from my post make any difference to my liabilities?

  • A: If the post is defamatory and the company can be identified from the post, removal of the brand/name will not make it less defamatory of the company. However, if the post is factual, the name (but no use of their logo/ trademarks) should be in to ensure that others are not similarly deceived.

Q: Are you able to advise me on my next action plan?

  • A: CITE is not able to give you specific advice about the strategy on your next course of action. In Singapore, this can only be done by a qualified lawyer. So you might want to consult someone who can help you.

Spreading of False Statements Online

Q: If a person spreads false statements about me on the internet, in one or multiple forum/blog/social networking sites, what are my rights?

  • A: It is possible to engage a lawyer to send a warning letter to the writer. The lawyer would be able to assess if it is worthwhile suing the person, given the cost of filing the suit, and this would also largely depend on what you are hoping to achieve from any legal action.

Q: If other individuals/groups were to leave indecent/malicious/derogatory/offensive comments in reply to the false statements, does this break any laws that we have?

  • A: Consistent with the fundamental right of free expression, people are free to make comments unless these comments are unlawful in some way, for instance where they can be shown to be false or to cause harm—physical or mental—to the person commented upon. Indecent, derogatory, offensive and even malicious comments may therefore be legal. It does not mean that they should be applauded or encouraged but it does mean that they may not have broken any law.

Q: Is there a way for me to remove the false statements about me from the online forum/blog/social networking sites?

  • A: Make a formal request to the web moderators/webmasters/site owner to remove such postings.

Q: However, the link to the now obsolete posting is still available on the search engine. Is there any way for the links to be de-linked from the obsolete posting or for them to stop my name from coming up in the search result list?

  • A: Specialised search engines and web crawlers such as Google may already have in an automated manner, identified and stored such information and will cache the information for years. You will have to submit your request each such search engine to get the information deleted, but note that each search engine may have its own requirements for removing such stored content.

Q: After the posting was removed, it was re-posted by someone else. What should I do?

  • A: You should request for the removal again as the web moderators/webmasters/site owner is not legally bound to do it for you unless a request has been made.

Copyright IssuesQ: How do I fully/partly reproduce copyrighted articles without being charged with copyright infringement? 

  • A: Copyright is a bundle of rights given to creators of works to make sure that only they can use and reproduce what they have created for their own purposes. These rights enable a copyright owner to control the commercial exploitation of his work.
    Re-publishing articles from a newspaper (as an example) without its prior approval, and even if credit is acknowledged, would generally constitutes infringement of copyright. To avoid violating a copyright, one should obtain the author’s permission before using that expression of ideas or facts. If the author’s permission is not available, the ideas (which are not copyrightable) may be restated in one’s own words.

Q: Does acknowledging the work of the author in the post means I’m not infringing the author’s copyright?

  • A: Even if the author’s credit is acknowledged, this would generally still be seen as infringing the author’s copyright unless the author’s permission was sought beforehand.

Q: What can I make out of the term “fair use” of such copyrighted materials?

  • A: There is a general defence of fair dealing under the Singapore Copyright Act. However, whether something constitutes a fair dealing is assessed on a case-by-case basis. Relevant factors would include (a) the purpose and character of the dealing, including whether it is of a commercial nature or is for non-profit educational purposes; (b) the nature of the work that is alleged to have been copied; (c) the amount and substantiality of the part copied, when taken in relation to the whole work; (d) the effect of the dealing upon the potential market for, or value of, the work; and (e) the possibility of obtaining the work within a reasonable time at an ordinary commercial price.