Privacy has become a big thing recently thanks to the European Union’s General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR). It’s arguably among the biggest development in tech this year and has put privacy in the spotlight. Organisations with online presence were compelled to review how they handle privacy even if they don’t really serve European audiences.

But even without the GDPR, it’s high time that privacy becomes part of daily concerns. In the Philippines, its National Privacy Commission is noticeably quite active in recent months launching events and online campaigns that inform of the basic principles of the regulations.

This drive to promote privacy has been long overdue. The Philippines’ Data Privacy Act was passed way back in 2012 but it was only in 2016 that the implementing rules were finally established. The regulations include provision for organisations to take steps such as appointing data protection officers, performing privacy impact assessments, and creating privacy management programs.

The idea is to have organisations comply with these measures but it’s tough to enact sweeping changes especially if it goes against the grain of the prevailing norms and culture.

Also read: How can privacy-focussed apps step up amid a world of data breaches?

It’s been somewhat of a joke that gossip is a national past time in the Philippines. Some say that the reason why there aren’t many reported serial killers in  the country is because neighbors would immediately notice if something shady is actually going on. Jokes aside, it’s easy to experience the effects of the little regard most entities give to people’s privacy.

Proper and secure document management and archiving are capabilities most organisations fail to develop. It’s still common to see enterprises hedge on adopting digitization as they continue to rely on antiquated and unsecure paper-based filing systems.

Sales and profits also seem to be more of a priority for larger enterprises. Up until today, it’s common for mobile phone subscribers to get bombarded by calls and texts from various telemarketing agencies which leads you to question how they get access to your contact information.

Smaller businesses and entrepreneurs also have this lax approach to protecting their customers’ information. It’s common to see online sellers to showcase their sales by posting pictures of packages or order lists bearing the names, addresses and contact details of their buyers for the public to see.

Individuals and end users aren’t helping either. Oversharing of information is still common online. Despite notices by the social networks and online services for users to check their privacy settings, not everyone has chosen to secure their accounts and hide information that can be used by malicious actors for fraud. People still don’t even perform basic measures like shredding bills and bank statements before disposing of them.

Also read: Cashless payments come with security and privacy challenges from the viewpoint of consumers and businesses

The status quo only continues to promote negligence and devalue the importance of data privacy. Many Filipinos still overlook the gravity of the breach of the Commission on Elections website which compromised the personal and biometric data of all registered voters. While most are preoccupied with violent crimes, the security breach of such magnitude should have been considered among the more appalling crimes to be committed.

While it’s nice that the government is ramping up its efforts to promote privacy. It would take a collective effort to change the prevailing mindset and establish a new culture that truly values people’s information.


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