Data privacy advocates in the public and private sectors, including those from the manufacturing, banking and BPO industries, have expressed full support for President Duterte’s call for safer e-commerce and e-governance spaces in his fifth State of the Nation Address last Monday.
The President’s statement reflects the National Privacy Commission’s (NPC’s) commitment in ensuring the safety of Filipino consumers as they shift to online transactions amid the pandemic.
“Building trust by protecting data privacy is key to ensuring the success of e-commerce, e-governance, and e-learning enunciated by President Duterte, as the country migrates to the digital arena,” Privacy Commissioner Raymund Liboro said.
Liboro added that “enforcing laws that protect online consumers against hackers and scammers could further build the confidence of the country’s international partners in our information systems, a development that would help boost the economy and provide jobs to our people.”
He said the President’s commitment to protect the physical and digital lives of Filipinos was in line with meeting the goals of “a high-trust and resilient society’’ envisioned in the Philippine Development Plan.
“President Duterte’s thrust to protect consumers’ personal data, and enforce data protection and privacy laws will surely boost online retail which will impact manufacturers,” said Gela Boquiren, data protection officer (DPO) of conglomerate San Miguel Corp.
“With the National Privacy Commission at the forefront, DPOs from all sectors will work as one to achieve this milestone,” Boquiren added.
Maria Francesca Montes, DPO of Unionbank, said the bank supports “the President in his official call to protect personal data of Filipinos, especially in this time when most are vulnerable in the digital space.”
Responsible data stewards
In his address to the joint session of Congress on July 27, the President said: “We must continue to protect Filipinos in the new normal and remind the world that we are responsible stewards of data. I am committed to protect both the physical and digital lives of our law-abiding countrymen.”
He said the country’s cyberspace must be patrolled, and online consumer and data protection and privacy laws enforced. “We must run after online scammers and those undermining the people’s trust in online transactions.”
The President further said: “The national government shall lead the way in our transition to online systems. I reiterate my call for all government instrumentalities to implement systems that shall make physical queuing a thing of the past.”
People have been flocking to the digital space to conduct transactions, as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts physical activities.
“The current pandemic has caused many of our countrymen to transact electronically with far greater frequency than before,” managing partner of Disini Law JJ Disini said.
Disini said Filipinos’ “ability to transact without fear of fraud or any harm is essential not only for their own safety but to further the growth of e-commerce.”
He described as timely the President’s decision “to recognize the important role data privacy will play not only in protecting our people but promoting economic development.”
The Contact Center Association of the Philippines (CCAP) is in harmony with the NPC in promoting data privacy and protection as a tool in nation building and economic prosperity, said Tonichi Achurra of CCAP.
“The contact center sector and the rest of the IT-BPM industry has long been stewards of data protection. It is an essential part of our business model and the fact that the Philippines is global leader in this space is testament to the trust placed on us by countless international clients,” Achurra added.
‘New oil,’ global standards
His reminder to the world that Filipinos are responsible stewards of data is a clear message that the President recognizes data as the “new oil” and that he is committed to global standards on protection and privacy, according to the NPC chief.
Liboro added that the President’s statement further cements his support for the BPO industry and his confidence on the Filipinos’ ability to compete globally in the digital space.
Role in global privacy landscape
The Philippines, through the NPC, has been making strides in the international and local data protection and privacy landscape.
As of March this year, the country is an official participant in the APEC Cross- Border Privacy Rules (CBPR) system, making the country the 9th member-economy in the region alongside the United States, Mexico, Canada, South Korea, Singapore, Chinese Taipei and Australia.
“Our entry into the APEC CBPR System is a huge milestone for the Philippines. With the easing of data-flow barriers that the system affords us, we could soon expect Philippine trading opportunities across APEC economies to significantly expand, thus help contribute to regaining losses sustained by the economy due to the COVID-19 crisis,” Commissioner Liboro said.
As a participant in the APEC CBPR system, the NPC is expected to identify at least one accountability agent whose role shall be to assess and certify the compliance of local companies with CBPR standards.
By being CBPR-certified companies, Philippine companies gain entry to a much larger market at reduced compliance costs in matters pertaining to cross-border data transfers.
In turn, they are required to protect personal data through enforceable standards, accountability, risk-based protections, consumer-friendly complaints handling, consumer empowerment, consistent protection, and cross-border enforcement cooperation.
The NPC is also gearing up for the launch of “Kabataang Digital,” an advocacy campaign under the PSST! (Privacy, Safety, Security and Trust) Online that promotes safe online environment for the youth.
“Kabataang Digital” encourages data protection for children by enjoining school officials and parents in educating their children on appropriate digital citizenship, promoting safe choices, and elaborating the implications of the digital environment for children’s privacy rights.
“Kabataang Digital” is on YouTube. The NPC is currently coordinating with various partners for the campaign’s launch.