Pobre, Ralph Vincent

A Reflection on RA 10173

Republic Act No. 10173, “An act protecting individual personal information in information and communications system, in the government and the private sector creating for this purpose a national privacy commission, and for other purposes .”

It is nice that the government recognizes the need for the protection of personal information in information and communication systems such as calls, text messages and other data in a person’s mobile phone, smart phone and computers as well as information posted by them in the internet especially in the rapid changes in technology today and how we communicate with each other.

Almost everyone today has a mobile phone whether its a phone for calling and texting or a smart phone with a camera and internet capabilities. Also, many Filipinos have Facebook and Twitter accounts and other forms of social media where they get to socialize, chat, share pictures and what not. These people as well as I, share many information over telecommunication or over the internet and because of the free access of these websites anyone can practically get hold of any information that a person texts or upload in the internet.

These telecommunications companies and social media sites have privacy policies and settings which a user can tweak to his or her own liking which is good, but a good hacker can always get access to your information and not even, an ordinary person can get hold of your phone or computer and steal your personal data and information. Take Hayden Kho for example, he had a number of homemade videos in his computer and his companions were able to take hold of such videos and blackmail the guy, and as we all know, he ended up losing his licence to practice medicine because of the ethical issues that came with it.

With all the sensitive information, especially in the internet, how safe really are they? And is the RA 10173 enough to keep these information and data safe?

Recently there have been news about identity theft over the internet particularly in Facebook, apparently, a girl has been stealing and using pictures of a female model pretending to be her in order to dupe a foreigner to send money to her. Fortunately, the authorities were able to catch her in one of their covert operations.

From ABS-CBN, April 20, 2012:

Call center agent arrested for Facebook ‘identity theft’

MANILA, Philippines – A call center agent is facing multiple charges after she was caught receiving money from an Australian man whom she tricked through social networking site Facebook.

The suspect, identified as Louella Tan, allegedly created a fake Facebook account using photographs of Fil-Norwegian commercial model Janka Cederstam.

Tan used the alias “Jen Matheson” on the site.

Cederstam said she received a call from an Australian who claimed that he met “Matheson” through Facebook.

The Australian, whose identity was not revealed, said he often chatted online with “Matheson” until she became his girlfriend.

He said the suspect had convinced him to send money to the Philippines because the suspect claimed there is no one to support her financially as both her parents are dead.

Identity theft

Cederstam immediately filed a complaint with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) against the identity thief and a sting operation was set up.

Tan was arrested by the NBI Technical Investigation Division while she was collecting the money sent by the Australian.

“Nag-create siya ng new account, binago ang name pero pinalitaw na same person. Dahil maganda ang nasa picture, maraming nag-add as friends. Eventually had a relationship with this Australian national. ‘Yung Australian national naman, believing na may online relationship sila, was enticed to send money via Western Union dito sa Pilipinas,” said Palmer Mallari, chief of the NIB’s Technical Investigation Division.

Tan said she was able to trace Cederstam’s personal background through Facebook.

“Itong anak ko inaalagaan ko ang reputasyon, pinaaral para magkaroon ng magandang reputasyon, sa’yo lang masira?” Cederstam’s mother told Tan following her arrest.

NBI warned the public against identity theft common on social networking sites.

“It is the act of stealing one’s identity name, pictures, personal circumstances. Tapos ‘yung identity na ito gagamitin to commit crimes such as estafa, extortion, libel, etcetera. Pero ang term na identity theft mismo ‘di pa na naka-define sa laws, hindi pa specifically krimen sa Pilipinas,” said Mallari.

Privacy settings

Mallari advised Facebook users to utilize the site’s privacy settings to prevent cases of identity theft.

“Kung pupuwede huwag ilagay ang totoong pictures, birthday mo, kung saan ka nakatira, huwag mo rin ilagay ang mga activities mo doon because by doing this lalo ka lang mago-open sa mga tao na may intensiyong lokohin ka,” he said.

The site has customized privacy settings to allow users to hide vital information from strangers.

On her Facebook page, Cederstam posted:

“It puts mine and my family’s reputation at stake! I’ll start deleting ‘friends’ on FB, will just keep those I’m actually close to as I see my photos on different websites even though it is set on private. To all the posers out there, stop doing what you’re doing because you will get caught and brought to JAIL, just like this chick who we tracked for 3 and a half weeks now.”

Tan will face charges of estafa, violation of the E-Commerce Law and illegal use of alias. — Report from Maan Macapagal, ABS-CBN News.

This is one of the problems with posting pictures online, even if it is in your own page or blog because people can simply save the photo and use them for their own malicious purposes. RA 10173 recognizes these kind of problems but lacks the actual way or device in order to curtail them.

Like with normal crimes enumerated in the Revised Penal Code, the government has a Police force and other agencies to enforce these laws. When it comes to the issue on personal information in telecommunications and the web RA 10173 has the National Privacy Commission. But honestly, their presence cannot be felt by the people, which in turn doesn’t really stop identity and information theft in the web. People are not afraid of committing such crimes because they’re confident that either they won’t be caught or they don’t think their victims will actually take any legal action. Take the group who hacked the different websites of the government, they were confident to do such things because they know that the government doesn’t have the machinery in order to catch them or merely identify them. The government should fund the National Bureau of Investigation and the National Privacy Commission in order for them to be able to be able to perpetrate such people, at the same time have a more concrete plan in applying the RA 10173.

Although, one good thing that the government has done in relation to this is the “Anti-cybercrime Law” but as we all know, there have been a lot of issues surrounding this law especially with the issue on internet libel and its penalties. But that aside, I think that the law has good intentions and a couple of revisions will make it a good one.

Nonetheless, without proper application of the law, it will just be futile.

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