Potential seen for personal data violations in connection with polls

By Jenina P. Ibañez, Reporter

THE NATIONAL Privacy Commission (NPC) is anticipating the risk of personal data misuse or repurposing in the lead up to the national elections next year.

“What we are trying to anticipate here is probably the unbridled collection of personal data in relation to the election, or the unauthorized use of personal data or repurposing of data that has been collected — for use in the elections,” Privacy Commissioner Privacy Commissioner Raymund E. Liboro said in a virtual interview last week.

Data that had been legally collected at the outset might be repurposed, he said.

The NPC in July issued a cease-and-desist order against website PiliPinas2022.ph for collecting voter data in a manner that violates data privacy rules.

“We saw a very serious risk (of) privacy threats with that website. It’s collecting a lot of data which we thought was excessive. It’s not transparent in stating its purpose for collection,” Mr. Liboro said.

The website collected voter names, addresses, and mobile phone numbers for a survey supposedly aimed at gauging the public pulse before the national elections next year, but it did not provide reasons for data collection or a privacy notice at the time. Its operators said they had no ties with political groups and are working to comply with NPC requirements.

The Data Privacy Act or Republic Act No. 10173 requires those processing personal information to declare its legitimate purpose for doing so before or just after information is collected. Violators are subject to imprisonment or fines.

UK-based charity Privacy International said that large amounts of personal data during election campaigns can be used to profile individuals based on their political views and preferences.

“These profiles are then used to target individuals with news, disinformation, political messages, and many other forms of content aimed at influencing and potentially manipulating their views,” the organization said.

It recommended that all campaigners be transparent and that electoral laws be updated for the digital age.

The NPC will be releasing guidelines for political parties and government, and it is gearing up for potential data violation complaints. The agency is also looking into local government units that have been collecting personal data.

“We will be coming up with policy advice for the national elections on what would be the fair and lawful use under the circumstances,” Mr.   said.

“Let this also serve as a warning to many groups including incumbent local government offices and units that the unbridled use or collection of personal data and possibly collecting it now for future use — ‘yan po ay hindi pinapayagan (that’s not allowed),” he said.

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