SY 2012-2013, First Semester
House bill 2965, now known as “Data Privacy Act of 2011”, aims to safeguard the privacy of millions of Filipinos as with regards to the use of their personal information. It lays down the rules as to when the processing of personal information shall be allowed. This Bill has a really good potential when it comes to protecting privacies of millions of Filipinos, however, the impact of this Bill to the society should be well addressed.
One of the points that this Act deals with is sensitive personal information and its allowed use under Data Privacy Act of 2011, subject to certain exceptions. Under the definition of terms in Section 3 of the said Act, “Sensitive personal information refers to “personal information about an individual race, ethnic origin, color and religious, philosophical or political affiliations; about an individual’s health, genetic or sexual life of a person, or to any judicial proceeding for any offense committed or alleged to have been committed by such person, the disposal of such proceedings, or the sentence of any court in such proceedings; issued by Philippine government agencies peculiar to an individual which includes, but not limited to, Social Security numbers, previous or current health records, licenses or its denials, suspension or revocation, and tax returns; and specifically established by an executive order or an act of Congress to be kept classified.” The details above according to the Act must only be gathered and use provided the data subject has given his express consent with regards to this matter. This is a very important provision because it recognizes that the data subject has the sole right over his own personal details and as to its usage and therefore must give his express permission before any data processing centers can use such. By requiring the consent of an individual, this Act aims to prohibit exploitations of different Data Processing Centers to the information they gathered. What’s more is that, the data gathered must only be used in a way where an individual agreed to its usage. This means that the data processing centers cannot in any way sell the personal details of an individual to a company that caters to particular demographics without the consent of an individual.
Another point of the Act that has both a good and bad implication is the penal sanction for those who will veer away from the provisions of this Act with regards to the unauthorized use of personal information. With penalties ranging from imprisonment and payment of fines, the penalties are high enough to be able for an abusive data processing company to think twice about misusing the details of an individual. However, the press society has been condemning the act specifically section 31 (Breach of Confidentiality) which states that, “the penalty of imprisonment ranging from two years and four months to five years and a fine not less than P500,000 but not more than P2 million shall be imposed in case of a breach of confidentiality where such breach has resulted in the information being published or reported by media. In this case, the responsible reporter, writer, president, publisher, manager and editor-in-chief shall be liable under this Act.” The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines claims that the provision intends to prevent media people and journalists in their duties to provide public and relevant information to the public. In other words, the provision ultimately has an effect of censoring these media outlets to provide adequate and necessary information to the public. If it were so, then it would mean that right of the public to information might be jeopardized because of the fact that these journalists cannot just report on matters without first securing the consent of the individual subject of the report. In this case, most ill motive politicians and government officials can hide under the guise of this Act in order for their evil acts to be hidden to the public and not be exposed because of the sanction to the press if ever they published reports which will involve the personal information about these people.
In conclusion, the Data Privacy Act of 2011 has good points and bad points that needed to be addressed. It aims to protect privacies of individual as regards their personal information and yet it apparently borders on censorship as claim by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines. This act is a step above to defend the rights of individuals as to the ownership of their personal rights; however, it is a step back when it comes to right of information of the public.