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PHL ‘almost’ ready for digital economy, but risks remain

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By Arra B. Francia, Reporter

THE National Privacy Commission (NPC) said the Philippines is ‘almost’ ready for a full-blown digital economy, but the country needs to work on addressing privacy issues that put Filipino Internet users at risk.

While the number of Filipinos using the Internet continue to rise, NPC Commissioner Raymund E. Liboro said the public must be aware of the privacy risks that come with  increased access.

“There is a hidden cost not many consumers are aware of, and that is a cost to their privacy. As they access the Internet, they allow companies to access their personal information — their friends’ lists, their locations, their likes and interests through their browsing history, sometimes even the medicines they are taking,” Mr. Liboro said in a forum organized by PLDT, Inc.’s financial technology arm, FINTQ.

In the Philippines, a data breach could potentially affect a third of its over 100 million population, as a study conducted by AGB Nielsen Philippines said one in three Filipinos have access to the Internet.

“With the steady rise of connectivity in the country, it follows that commercial transactions and professional interactions based around this convenient form of data transfer would also gain traction,” Mr. Liboro said.

With this, he said entities using online platforms must be one step ahead when it comes to detecting the threats and risks, as this would not only compromise data but also their relationship with their clientele.

“While it is important for businesses to understand that privacy is a human right, it is even more important to understand that any breach of personal information will damage your relationship with your clientele. Quite simply, it is within the interest of businesses to ensure that the information privacy rights of their consumers are protected and upheld,” Mr. Liboro explained.

Should data breaches occur, these entities must then move from being vigilant to being accountable.

The NPC official cited the latest string of data breaches that have affected the country, including the 2016 hack on Uber Technologies and the leak of voters’ data from the Commission on Elections.

“Personal information controllers must realize that, when a personal data breach happens, we are not merely victims, but also entities that hold great responsibility, precisely because we were entrusted by the public to take care of their data,” Mr. Liboro said.

He added consent is another important feature in minimizing data risks, saying that customers must understand the implications of their actions before proceeding with online transactions. Using the growing financial technology sector as an example, the official said companies must be mindful of their sign-up processes and must give users a chance to withdraw consent at any time.

“Fintechs will need to demonstrate that consent was freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous and that the customer provided clear affirmative action,” Mr. Liboro said.

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