December 19, 2022 (12:22 PM)

4 min read

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The recent Republic Act No. 11934, or the SIM Card Registration Law, signed by Ferdinand Marcos Jr., is a disconcerting indication that the Philippines is taking steps towards becoming a police state.

With the law in place, all people, even foreigners, will have to register their Philippine SIM cards starting December 27. While the government may claim that the mandatory registration of their SIM cards is necessary to combat fraud and cybercrimes, it is clear that this law is nothing more than a guise to invade the privacy of Filipinos.

Sure, while they are uncertain, some may argue that it will effectively decrease crime in cyberspace. However, data scientists would say that data is king in times of uncertainty. Looking at the data, it is inevitable that this law would be ineffective, at least for the purpose that the government claims it has.

In multiple case studies by the GSM Association (GSMA) in 2016, even with 157 countries already implementing mandatory SIM registration, not even one of the countries showed any empirical evidence of crime reduction. Instead, they were able to find various ways that criminals were able to carry out what they usually do despite the law.

For instance, Singapore, a neighboring country, had a man selling 66,000 SIM cards illegally by using altered foreign passports. Even in the Philippines, there was a recent case of illegally selling SIM cards with verified e-wallet accounts. Verified e-wallet accounts would require a valid ID, similar to how the SIM Card Registration Law works. As expected, the requirement was not able to prevent such illegal activity.

At least 50% of the 157 countries could not provide any legal framework for consumer privacy or data protection. To make things worse, over half of them are developing countries due to a combination of a lack of political will and appropriate digital infrastructure like the Philippines. The numbers don’t lie—the law is nothing but a misguided and dangerous approach that puts our personal information at risk and does nothing to address the root causes of these crimes.

Another direct risk of this fallacious law is data abuse, which is not foreign to us. In fact, there have been several cases, even before this law was signed, where the extent of our privacy has become questionable. During the 2022 Philippine National Elections, Filipinos received political spam messages left and right despite not giving consent to receive such advertisements.

A more recent example is the wave of scam messages which was concluded to have been due to scammers scraping publicly available data from GCash, a mobile wallet owned by Globe, one of the largest telcos in the Philippines.

At this point, how can the government justify this law which requires us to disclose more personal information to telco companies and puts us at an even greater risk of having our data breached? This act is particularly concerning given the Philippines’ history of extrajudicial killings, suppression of government critics, and attacks on human rights.

As Filipinos, we have a right to demand better from our government. Instead of invading our privacy and putting our personal information at risk, the government should focus on cracking down on illegal activities and holding perpetrators accountable for their actions. We must speak out and demand that our government respect our right to privacy, better yet, abandon this ill-conceived law.

Any ethically trained data scientist would know—data may be the new gold, but essentially, it’s human beings that are being exploited. Data privacy is not an option but an absolute prerequisite for any country that claims to protect its citizens.


About Son Roy Almerol - Kawingan

Son Roy Almerol is a BS Computer Science student at Ateneo de Davao University. He was once an "iskolar ng bayan" from the University of the Philippines Diliman. Specializing in web development, he developed software applications for multiple student organizations. He writes from time to time to connect the common people to the rapidly growing technology.




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