Educating children about going digital

Published February 17, 2021, 10:53 AM

by Professor Rom Feria

I saw a blurb on Twitter about the Philippine National Privacy Commission’s (NPC) new advocacy campaign, the Kabataang Digital (KD), that was launched recently. I was not able to watch it live, but the videos are all on YouTube. 

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First of all, I commend the commission for this initiative in educating our children on the pitfalls of being online on the internet (Facebook IS NOT the internet — just had to say this!). The KD site has resources, such as short videos, games and links to download wallpapers, a digital Facebook frame for your profile photo, and stickers for Viber.

The launch event had reputable resources persons, some of whom I personally know. Each of their presentations provided valuable knowledge and resources for Filipino children (and adults, too) in protecting and safeguarding their data online.

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That being said, I find that the campaign needs to do more. One video snippet provided a tip on editing photos and videos using your mobile phone. Here are the screenshots of their tip:

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Who takes a screenshot of a photo when it is already on your phone? The screenshot is of lower quality than the original and edited photo. And how about a video — do you record your screen instead? I do not know who does this. If you do not trust the application, why download it in the first place, right? It just does not make sense. If they are attempting to provide a tip about using mobile applications, maybe they should inform users to read the permissions the applications are asking for.

For a privacy commission that is supposed to protect the citizens against data collection without consent, why was the launch event sponsored by Google? I am surprised that Facebook wasn’t included, but then again, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) seems to love Facebook more. This is like the Department of Health launching an anti-smoking campaign event sponsored by tobacco companies. 

Nothing in the event (or maybe it was downplayed) — at least none that I can remember after spending more than 4 hours watching the YouTube video — mentioned the tracking being done by the likes of Facebook and Google. There was a mention of browser plug-ins to block trackers, but that was it. Children should know that when they visit complicit websites, such as privacy.gov.ph (see https://themarkup.org/blacklight?url=privacy.gov.ph) and mb.com.ph (I think the blacklight tool is being blocked here), their data are being collected by Google. Some websites provide data to Facebook, whilst others, such as inquirer.net (see https://themarkup.org/blacklight?url=inquirer.net) and rappler.com (see https://themarkup.org/blacklight?url=rappler.com) provide data to both Google AND Facebook and MORE! If this isn’t a privacy concern, I do not know what is.

Nobody questioned why Google’s Android only allows you to delete your location data after 3 months, and not just provide an option to not collect location data at all. Nobody asked why Android collects data even if it is not connected to the internet, and uploads all the collected data when it re-establishes internet connection. Yes, it is about personalization, but is it only about that?

It was also an opportunity to get the two telcos present, Smart and Globe, to explain why they are providing free access to Facebook, and not the open internet. If I remember, the pitch was it was from the goodness of their hearts that they provide free access to bridge the digital divide, but why Facebook? Why not the open internet? Did the deal between Facebook and the two telcos, Smart and Globe, involve some $$$ in exchange of selling out the Filipinos’ data? I can only speculate. 

Anyway, the Kabataang Digital campaign has a long way to go. I am hoping that the National Privacy Commission will be true to its mandate of protecting Filipinos against companies that they are supposed to monitor (and not take sponsorship from them in any shape or form). With the way things are happening, I hope I will not see the NPC become like the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), an agency that seem to protect the telcos’ interests more than the citizens (whatever happened to the mobile number portability act? are we still no track for mid-2021?).

So kids and adults, make sure that you keep your data safe and secure, away from the prying eyes of those who earn billions off of it.

 
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