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Bicol Standard - EDITORIAL | Privacy and the pandemic

News & Interviews
23 June 2020

By Bicol Standard

Amid the pandemic, the threat to data privacy is escalating, what with the increased reliance on digital tools to stay connected to family and friends, to work or study remotely, or to accomplish tasks such as banking and shopping, or for entertainment.

The increased use of websites, apps, and other digital tools—particularly those that ask for one to surrender valuable personal data--has stirred concerns about data privacy.

For the most part, many of these concerns have been largely valid.

Even before the pandemic, there have been numerous reports of data breaches, hacking, and lax security practices.

Here in the Philippines, among the most notorious ones was the hacking of the website of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) in 2016 by Anonymous Philippines.

In said incident, which dubbed as the biggest private data leak in Philippine history so far, the voter database was downloaded off COMELEC’s database and reuploaded to mirror websites.

This exposed the personal information of some 55 million registered voters, according to investigations.

In recent years, the government has been more stringent with its laws on data privacy, as shown by the growing number of websites asking users if they are willing to accept cookies, and more establishments posting their privacy policy when asking for personal information.

That said, the safeguards established by the government in the Data Privacy Act need to be complemented by one’s own vigilance and judgment.

Even a simple act of reading through the terms and conditions and permissions before signifying agreement will help a lot in preventing malicious activity.

It is also important to recognize red flags, such as phishing or social engineering attempts sent to one’s inbox.

These times of uncertainty and distress are highly ideal for cyber criminals to exploit vulnerabilities in data privacy and security.

As their schemes become more sophisticated and difficult to detect, we must be more proactive in protecting our information.

After all, even in this pandemic, privacy remains a fundamental right.