The National Privacy Commission (NPC) clarified on Tuesday that the Data Privacy Act (DPA) is not a hindrance to contact tracing initiatives, saying that it seeks to protect individuals from discrimination amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
“We want to clarify that the DPA does not prevent hospitals from sharing a COVID-19 patient’s data to proper authorities,” Privacy Commissioner Raymund E. Liboro said.
Liboro said the law recognizes the guidelines set by the Department of Health (DOH) on contact tracing procedures that hospitals, local government units, and contact tracers must follow.
Likewise, Liboro also called on individuals infected with COVID-19 to be truthful when providing information.
“The DPA should not be used as an excuse for not providing COVID patient data necessary for LGU contact tracing that we need to combat the pandemic,” Liboro said.
He also noted that hospitals were mandated to collect information from patients and provide it to authorities under the guidelines set by the DOH.
Under the Department Memorandum 2020 – 0189 of the DOH, it said that “health facilities, public and private, shall cooperate fully with the DOH – Epidemiology Bureau and its regional and local counterparts by ensuring that Local Contact Tracing Teams (LCTTs) are provided access to medical records, facilitating case interviews, and conducting other case investigation and contact tracing activities.
Liboro said public and private health institutions, companies, and individuals involved in the COVID response must “collect and process what is necessary and disclose data only to the proper authorities.”
The DOH and NPC also advised against publicly naming data subjects suspected of having contracted COVID-19 or confirmed positive for the disease connected with contact tracing efforts.
“Publicly naming an infected individual is equivalent to putting a person’s life at risk, given the physical assaults and discrimination which suspected or confirmed individuals had experienced,” Liboro said.
“Fearing possible harassment and stigma, people may hide their true conditions, leading to lost opportunities in tracking the disease and contact tracing. The policy is counterproductive, will not result in better contact tracing, and will put more lives of frontliners at risk,” he added.