Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Privacy Rights and Privacy Wrongs: 3rd National Privacy Conference

Wazzup Pilipinas!

Social media users are often criticized for being too harsh, or should we say, too open. It has become a no holds barred venue that could be an outlet for posting of either rants or raves especially when there's too much hate or love for something or somebody.

This openness makes most of us so vulnerable because we tend to reveal even sensitive or confidential information that could lead us to danger if it falls into the wrong hands. Our lives may be in jeopardy if it is taken advantage by cunning individuals that are up to no good. On the other hand, social media can also be used by shady individuals to malign or ruin the reputation of individuals too. There is so much false news and information proliferating online that many are getting brainwashed or confused on what to believe.

Statements on social media could make or break anybody if taken too far. The advantage is with those that have the financial resources that could easily run a massive campaign online for or against anybody.

Meantime, there are some entities or organizations that require us to submit our personal information that we know could also be a source of threat for us, just as how the COMELEC was hacked and robbed of its precious data that is all about the many Filipino voters. Who knows what they will do with all those information about a few million Filipinos?

An attendee gave a tip that we should also think twice about sharing personal information like emails and addresses with institutions or corporations. If absolutely necessary, use a separate email account not linked to any other accounts. I agree because we wouldn't know if they could use these information to penetrate, access and control our personal accounts.

Thus, we do need to have some sort of regulatory body that could help prevent such occurrences to persist and also to identify and penalize the erring individuals or groups. We need to talk more about our privacy and the impact of data breaches on our rights.

Building a Rights-based Ecosystem for Data Privacy in the Philippines is the theme for the 3rd run of the National Privacy Commission, and it should be considered better because now there is a National Privacy Commission already in place.

Privacy Commissioner and Chairman Raymund "Mon" Liboro gave the keynote address held on January 20, 2017 at the Ballroom Hall of the Oracle Hotel and Residences, Katipunan Avenue, Loyola Heights, in Quezon City. Though he explained more about the National Privacy Commission and we had no opportunity to ask him about the COMELEC issue, I was able to have a little chat with him before he left from the event. I asked for a copy of their findings and resolution so I would write a separate article about the controversial "COMELeak." I also took a video of his entire message so you can check it out here or at our YouTube channel at

Organized by the Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA), the conference is the third of its kind and the first in which the National Privacy Commission took part. Deputy Commissioner for Policy and Planning Atty. Ivy D. Patdu talked in the second session on Philippine Surveillance Policy and Practice, while Deputy Commissioner for Data Processing Systems Dondi O. Mapa participated in the fourth session on Privacy in Big Data, Cloud Computing, and the Internet of Things.

From the FMA, Allan Alegre shared the overview, Liza Garcia gave the welcome remarks, while Jessamine Pacis gave an overview of what transpired regarding the "COMELeak."

Session one entitled Deconstructing the 2016 "COMELeak": The Breach, the Impact, the Ruling, was a highly interesting topic and involved the panelists consisting of Angel Averia from the Philippine Computer Emergency Response Team (PH-CERT), Atty. Romel Bagares from the Center of International Law (CenterLaw), and Atty. Marlon Tonson from the Philippine Internet Freedom Alliance (PIFA).

From the session, we are made aware that the COMELEC commissioner Andres Bautista was held liable for the voters' data leak. But we all know that the election commission chief is sort of "untouchable" so if we are actually serious about sending the message that data privacy is important, the National Privacy Commission's findings should be forwarded to the House of Representatives for impeachment proceedings.

Session two is entitled "Tiktik: A Report on Philippine Surveillance Policy & Practice of which Deputy Commissioner Ivy Patdu is joined by Allan Alegre, Atty. Jamael Jacob, and Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Commissioner Roberto Cadiz all shared their respective messages regarding another sensitive topic pertaining to surveillance.

As far as I know, a few government agencies have been already actively monitoring certain individuals for many years already. But of course these are supposedly highly confidential that only a selected few should know about it. But with the previous "leaks" involving high profile personalities like the former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her "Hello Garci" controversy, plus a few more that we have heard over the news, we can't help but imagine who else is under the watch of a 'big brother." If the government is capable of doing secret surveillance such as wiretapping, there is also the possibility that outside entities could also do the same. There could be no privacy at all, especially if you are a person of interest.

I was not able to attend the afternoon session because of a conflicting event but the remaining topics were equally interesting such as the Philippine social media wars and its impact on privacy and human rights. There was also a discussion on the impact of technologies such as Big Data, Cloud Computing and Internet of Things where humongous data could now be easily accessed online, and everything could now be connected. There could always be a similar "leak" where criminal elements could tap and cause trouble for us if we are not careful enough. Technology may have its pros, but there could also be be cons if security concerns would not taken seriously.

I am just hoping the Foundation for Media Alternatives could release at least an outlined overview of what was discussed at the afternoon sessions.

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