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Loss of passport data may result in identity theft cases —IT expert

An information technology (IT) expert on Sunday warned that the reported loss of passport data entrusted to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) may result in cases of identity theft of passport holders.

IT expert Jerry Liao said in an interview on Super Radyo dzBB that the incident involving a passport maker previously tapped by the DFA running off with passport data and other documents entrusted to it for processing should be a cause for concern.

"Kapag napunta 'yung mga impormasyon na ito sa mga taong hindi dapat makakuha, siyempre cause for concern ito kasi once nasa kanya 'yang mga impormasyon na 'yan, puwede niya nang gamitin ito at his disposal. Puwede niyang ibenta 'yung mga impormasyon na ito sa ibang tao," Liao said.

"'Yung iba, mas lalo pa kasi pinasa pa sa iba, puwedeng gamitin sa ibang bagay 'yun. Puwedeng gawing identity theft, puwede akong magpanggap na [ibang tao]," he added.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. explained that the reason why the DFA is requiring passport holders to submit their birth certificates in renewing their passports was because the passport maker took all the data when its contract was terminated.

Among the data that was supposedly taken—and could be used for identity theft— were addresses, dates of birth, and other identification marks, Liao said.

"Kung talagang may masamang balak ako dito, puwede kong gamitin kasi lahat ng impormasyon mo nasa akin na e," he added.

Liao surmised that the DFA gave access to the actual information of passport holders to the outsourced passport maker, when agencies only normally give "dummy" data to the contracting firm.

"Ang standard kasi, for example, you hire not just government but also private entity, normally hindi mo binibigay 'yung totoong impormasyon," he said. "Ito mukhang binigyan ng access doon sa database, 'yung totoong data."

Liao advised that the government should not provide actual data to outsourced firms when contracting out projects.

"'Yun 'yung parang dapat bantayan natin, not only for government and private entities, na once nagpapagawa kayo ng programa na ina-outsource niyo, never expose your real information. You can always create dummy record," he said.

But the DFA on Saturday assured the public that most of the people renewing their passports will not be affected by the recent incident, as most of the current passport holders already have electronic or e-passports issued from 2009 onward, thus they no longer need to submit birth certificates.

Only those who are renewing the older Machine Readable Ready and Machine Readable Passports are required to submit birth certificates, the DFA added. —Erwin Colcol/KG, GMA News