The PADU Quagmire Leading To An Identity Crisis

What started out as a simple registration exercise turned out to be a public relations nightmare for the Minister of Economy, who may have no business collecting separate personal information for the PADU initiative.

With his Bugs Bunny smile, and the demeanour of those long-forgotten travelling silverware salesmen, our Minister of Economy, Rafizi Ramli, announced on the second of January this initiative called PADU, launched by his boss, the big man himself, prime minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. A quick definition and info:

PADU stands for Pangkalan Data Utama, which means Central Database Hub. It is a government database system that consolidates data from various sources to help in policymaking and social protection. It is managed by the Department of Statistics (DOSM) in Malaysia. PADU aims to improve data accuracy and generate periodic economic analytics.

Now, Rafizi may have thought that this initiative would be received the same way as his boss’ proposition of Madani, a concept so vague that many accept it with their own interpretation in mind (sort of like that trick illusion in which the drawing looks like either rabbit or duck). Only a few have been waking up to some of the empty promises, and a great many folks out there are still in denial. Rafizi banked on that gullibility. But now this initiative may be blowing up in his face.

How Trustworthy is PADU?

That’s because as of March 18, only 5.4 million Malaysians out of the targeted 29 million have updated their information in PADU. There is a very logical reason why the uptake is low, as PADU is all about declaring your personal information to the government, specifically Rafizi and his ministry. Yes, to the same guy who once “was arrested at the Parliament lobby in Jalan Parliament,” where he was slapped (you wish) with two charges for possessing and disclosing a page from the Auditor-General’s classified report on state investment firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Granted, he has actually been credited with helping trigger one of the biggest legal cases in the country, but it also exposed him as someone you wouldn’t lend your pair of slippers to, let alone all the goddamned information about you. Which is why the PADU thing is not going down well with most Malaysians.

Protests have been abounding, the loudest coming from across the South China Sea, where officials from Sarawak not only refused to register but have been educating the people there not to dump in all their details into PADU. Plus, many more leaders have come out and, to borrow this report’s headline, berated Rafizi on the issue.

So far, Rafizi is alone in defending PADU; neither the PM nor other related ministries have opened their respective yaps about it. This is the guy who was hailed by the supporters of the current ruling coalition as a 1MDB hero in a manner that, in turn, made our country a spittoon among the international community. Before the election, he was also the media’s darling and can be relied upon for being a bordello maid for the press, especially the knee-jerky online ones, like how this one portal can hardly contain itself of the newfound Prince Harming (no, not a typo).

The Formula King

Aside: Rafizi, who was once gifted with a ring lovingly by the now PM, is fondly known in our country as Formula King. Before that, he was referred to endearingly as Penghasut. For the benefit of non-Malaysian readers or those who have been working too long in Singapore, Penghasut means instigator, but in a nasty way. It was quite an upgrade to be known as Formula King now. End of aside.

If one were to follow the news, Rafizi has been adamant and has been vehemently defending PADU, even making terrific claims such as that the system has withstood 2 million cyberattacks. If I have 2 million people outside my house with torches and pitchforks, I will pray to be magically beamed me out of the country or have a cyanide pill handy.

But then, it could also be that the system is so awesome; those are jealous attacks. “Is it that great?” the cyberterrorist may have asked before outraging PADU’s modesty. Well, a common complaint on PADU is the lack of user friendliness right at the registration stage. I would imagine it’s like knocking on a door, only for it to be opened to a pool of starving alligators to wade through. I was exaggerating, but here’s an actual experience as shared by NMH’s editor, Datin Hasnah Rahman:

“I tried to register for PADU. But I can’t because it says my address on my IC is different from the one I keyed in.” It is because she has moved — as many would in the course of their lifetime (duh)—and now she had to call them up to change the address. “I tried calling them, but, as usual, there was no reply. At least about 5 times.!”

Much Ado About Padu, Yet the App Cannot Even Capture the Applicant Visual Identity, As Faced by Nmh Editor-in-chief, Datin Hasnah
Much ado about PADU yet the app cannot even capture the applicant visual identity as faced by NMH Editor In Chief Datin Hasnah

She finally did get through with the registration today and sent me this message: “Finally registered using my old address. But now I cannot sah my identity. Maybe my face taken with my camera phone doesn’t look like the one in the IC, duhhh”.

Identity Crisis

Hence, I left the poor lady with the new identity crisis and chatted up an old colleague through What’s App. After ditching the journalism gig, my old chum is now an analyst at a cyber security firm. Under the condition of anonymity, of course, he wrote “PADU’s chief statistician fears that the last-minute surge in registrations before the March 31 deadline could result in system congestion.”

“This begs the question. If it cannot handle a mere 30 million traffic surges, can it handle or accomplish its objectives and tasks of what’s expected of it for the nation’s population?”

The major risk for PADU, he said, is the threat of breach. “Using geofencing technology is all fine and dandy. Yet, those making use of this powerful tool should tread carefully, especially when individuals are targeted based on inferences about sensitive personal information,” he noted.

“We know not a single politician can be trusted or expected to be ethical. The lack of laws and regulations on this tool raises significant invasion of privacy concerns among many consumer and citizen advocacy groups,” he noted. Did he say “we”?

No sooner than after this chat, this news appeared where another cybersecurity expert concurred with what my ex-colleague had mentioned, saying that PADU was using “outdated” methods, potentially compromising its data integrity.

Online Scammers

Rafizi has not only internal but external bugs to fix — his critics, and they are not kidding because those are valuable, strong data in store there. Online scammers would kill to get the nuggets from that goldmine. Politicians can scoop them up and do what the scammers do, but with blueprints and press conferences. Abuse, in the context here, is a terrifying word.

The impact is tremendous, if we are aware of the damages hackers can do. If those institutions listed in that link can be breached, and that too at the infancy of cyberterrorism, PADU is a scantily clad damsel at a sex offenders’ reunion party.

Speaking of which, I omitted to mention that my old pal’s first reaction before launching into long explanation was, “F***ed up system”. ‘nuff said. – NMH

Facebook Comments

Latest articles

Related articles