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SIM card registration may result in heightened risk of personal data breaches — NPC

The National Privacy Commission (NPC) expressed reservations on a proposed measure seeking a mandatory registration of prepaid subscriber identity module (SIM) cards.

During a hearing of the Senate Committee on Public Services on Wednesday, NPC Policy Development Division chief Ivy Grace Villasoto said the Privacy body recognizes the clamor for the implementation of the SIM Card registration for the purpose of addressing concerns on national security, fighting terrorism and organized crimes.

However, she said, “It should be emphasized also that the implementation of this system would entail massive collection of personal data nationwide.”

Senate Bill No. 176 or SIM Card Registration Act, filed by Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, seeks to require users of prepaid SIM cards to present a valid ID and photo to sign a control-numbered registration form issued by the service provider of purchased SIM card.

Copies of accomplished forms shall also be furnished to the service provider and the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).

Citing the registration process, the NPC official said, “Ang dami pong steps and in all those steps maaaring magkaroon ng leakages.”

“This may result in heightened risk of personal data breaches, unauthorized processing, intrusion into the privacy of people, and the restriction of other rights and freedoms,” Villasoto said.

Gatchalian, for his part, said the Data Privacy law is “robust” and that the NPC should be able to “come up with safeguards on how to protect data privacy in light of this SIM card registration.”

The senator emphasized that a SIM card registration system will help deter cybercrimes and terrorism.

“We have to give them [law enforcers] the tools in order for them to resolve cases. Finding the perpetrator is the most difficult part and without tools it is virtually impossible for them to resolve these cases. Dead-end is always a prepaid SIM card. It is one of the tools to make our country safe,” Gatchalian said.

The NPC official, however, said that in countries implementing SIM card registration systems “there is no empirical evidence yet that proves mandatory SIM card registration directly leads to reduction of crime.”

“We have to emphasize that accurate SIM card registration will have to rely heavily on the honesty of the subscriber. Kasi when we submit the ID, submit registration form there may be no way to vet if indeed tama po yung sinubmit,” Villasoto said.

She said that the SIM card registration will also negatively impact vulnerable sectors.

“May concern din kami sa maaaring economic and social factors on this SIM registration cause some might be financially excluded kung hindi sila makakapag-register. If you are not able to register your existing prepaid [SIM] maka-cut ang service,” the NPC official said.

“‘Yun din ang iniiwasan natin na magkaroon ng exclusion of the vulnerable groups and geographically remote persons might be significantly and negatively affected by this,” she added.

The House of Representatives has passed its version of the bill on third and final reading in May 2018. — RSJ, GMA News