Words by Kim Cantillas
The government is in crisis—it wants to remain in power in a democracy, yet it has time and again failed the people, thereby losing their trust. More and more people become vocal about their critiques of the government, but the government responds by silencing them. The government wants the people to simply follow the rules it imposes, but these rules are unscientific and do more harm than good.
Such is the case with the SIM Card (and Social Media) Registration Bill. As its full title suggests, the bill envisions to “eradicate mobile phone, Internet or electronic communication-aided criminal activities.” But even now, we can already say that it will not be able to do so. Why? Because there are ways to get around SIM Card and Social Media registration and still commit the criminal acts this bill is supposed to “eradicate”. Other countries that have implemented SIM Card Registration have shown the ineffectiveness of such policies in deterring crime. Some countries such as Mexico and Pakistan have even seen crimes such as identity fraud increase.
Aside from being ineffective in its supposed purpose, it deprives us of our right to privacy and anonymity, and exposes us to more risk. Privacy and anonymity are important concepts in information security. Now that we spend more time on our devices and have been increasingly using the Internet, the volume of data that each one of us generates has drastically increased. If these data are consolidated, they can be used to profile us. Once we’ve been profiled, our behavior and perception can be manipulated by filtering the content that we see. This is how big tech companies profit over our data. This is what companies like Cambridge Analytica did to influence the national elections of the Philippines in 2016.
The bill also specifies that the data from the SIM Card Registration will be kept in a centralized database. It does not yet say which government agency is responsible for maintaining and securing this database. In recent years, we’ve seen how little our government has invested in—or simply cared about—securing our data whether these data are in their own infrastructure or are held by a third party service provider.
Under Section 11, Penalties, the bill essentially allows the state to commit spoofing. Coupled with the Anti-Terror Law, law enforcement agencies can practically use this on anyone, because the ATL doesn’t require substantial evidence—or any evidence at all—to tag someone as a terrorist and surveil them.
This bill will do the most harm to law-abiding citizens. Those with criminal intent can and will find ways around the SIM Card and Social Media Registration Bill. Crime syndicates and corrupt government officials already have the machinery to do so. This will be but a bump in the road for them. Meanwhile our information is served to them on a centralized database of a silver platter. [P]
Kim Cantillas is the Secretary General of the Computer Professionals’ Union. They studied Computer Science at the De La Salle University and worked as a Software Test Engineer.
Computer Professionals’ Union (CPU) is a mass organization of ICT practitioners, professionals, and advocates united in advancing ICT for the People.
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