Fears over privacy, health risks hound pre-registration process of national ID system

… country’s national ID system raised privacy and security concerns due to the national government’s questionable record in protecting citizen’s data.
Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

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The pre-registration process of the country’s national ID system raised privacy and security concerns due to the national government’s questionable record in protecting citizen’s data.

The Philippine Statistics Authority have already started the pre-registration of the national ID system last Monday, October 12 through a house-to-house visit to be conducted by PSA personnel.

The government targets nine million individuals, “composed of at least five million low-income household heads and the rest of adult members” to be registered until December 30, said PSA Assistant Secretary and deputy national statistician Rosalinda Bautista.

Given the still raging novel coronavirus pandemic, this will be done in only 32 locations where active cases are low and in a voluntary basis.

“Sa batas po natin, lahat po ng Pilipino at resident aliens natin dito sa Pilipinas, pati po ang Pilipino na nasa abroad, ay puwedeng mag-apply para sa national ID pero voluntary. Voluntary po kasi ito,” she said in a previous radio interview.

This identification program was mandated under the Republic Act 11055 or the Philippine Identification System Act which was signed into law in 2018.

The law aims to establish a single identification card or system to all citizens in the Philippines and replace over 46 existing government IDs to provide better convenience in transactions.

Current concerns on the pre-registration

On privacy

While the intentions of the centralized ID are good, the government has not yet proven its capability in handling and protecting data privacy.

Josh Malonzo, research head of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines, said that the system could be used for surveillance under the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

The controversial measure, which currently has over 20 counter-petitions before the Supreme Court, has provisions deemed to curtail dissent and violate other civil liberties.

“NATIONAL ID SYSTEM?? WHILE ANTI-TERRORISM ACT OF 2020 IS IN FULL EFFECT?? THIS IS BASICALLY MASS SURVEILLANCE,” Malonzo said.

Previous instances of hacking of government websites, social media accounts and other digital assets over the years also contributed to the general public’s skepticism and fears over the implementation of a centralized ID system.

Bautista earlier assured that the public’s personal information are secured because the PSA abides by the Data Privacy Act of 2012, the country’s law that protects the Filipinos’ rights to privacy.

House-to-house visit

Some Filipinos raised concerns on the health and security risks of the manual visitation of PSA staff amid the pandemic.

Screenshot by Interaksyon

One Facebook user appealed for the PSA staff to be meticulous in their data gathering.

Screenshot by Interaksyon

Rosemarie Edillon, deputy director-general of the National Economic and Development Authority, said that the PSA staff will only gather social demographics and no personal contact given the risk of transmissions.

“What we will be doing is actually a pre-registration. We’ll just be collecting on social demographics,” Edillion said in a previous briefing.

“There will be no taking of fingerprints or biometrics yet because these requires testing centers wherein there would be congregation. It might be too risky since it can be a place where the virus can easily spread,” she added.

Voluntary basis

Other Filipinos questioned the purpose for the pre-registration to be on a voluntary basis, citing the government’s goal of convenience to Filipinos, businesses and other organizations.

Screenshot by Interaksyon

There are two stages in acquiring the national ID—the preregistration and the registration proper.

The first stage will run from October 12 to December 30. Nearly the same time, the second stage will run from November 12 to December 30.