PH Privacy Conference 2.0 Held

MANILA, Philippines – On 13 March 2015, the 2nd National Consultative Conference on Privacy was held at the Oracle Hotel and Residences in Quezon City. The gathering followed the recently concluded Privacy and Surveillance Workshop (February 18) in the same city. Both are joint endeavours of the Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA), Department of Science and Technology – Information and Communications Technology Office (DOST-ICTO) and Internet Society – Philippines (ISOC-PH).

This year’s edition carried the theme, “Locating Privacy Rights in Evolving Digital Information Societies,” and featured discussions on prevailing privacy issues. It also provided a unique look at the new challenges posed by emerging technologies.

Setting the tone of conference in his keynote address, Jose Luis Gascon, Human Rights Claims Board Member, admitted that while modest gains have been achieved since the enactment of the country’s data privacy law (RA 10173), a significant amount of work still lies ahead. This makes a solid working partnership among all relevant sectors of society not only important but imperative.

During the discussion proper, the main panel featured the topics of “communication surveillance and data retention,” “social media privacy,” and “gender, privacy and the internet.” Malou Mangahas of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) presented a case study on communications privacy for the first segment. Noemi Lardizabal-Dado (Blogwatch) and Marlon Tonson (Philippine Internet Freedom Alliance) took turns discussing privacy issues in the context of social media, dissecting in the process the recent Supreme Court decision involving high school students from St. Theresa’s College (STC) in Cebu. Meanwhile, Lisa Garcia, FMA program coordinator, gave a short presentation on the critical overlaps between gender and privacy interests in the context of cyberspace. Each speaker highlighted a specific area within the main topics with a view to providing a more comprehensive understanding of the subjects and all related issues.

Making up the second half of the event, the next four topics taken up included a minor showcase of modern gadgets and sensors, and the so-called “internet of things;” the proliferation of surveillance cameras or CCTVs; the use of biometrics; and various forms of cognitive technologies. Dr. William Yu (Ateneo de Manila University), Elpidio Peria (BITS Policy Institute), Peter Sy (UP Diliman), and Neth Dano (ETC Group) were the discussants, respectively. The panelists carefully dissected the nature of these developments, and their inevitable impact on people’s privacy rights.

Making up for the late start of the open forum immediately following the presentations, a brief but lively discussion was facilitated by the FMA staff, paving the way for more candid interaction between the audience and all the speakers still available.

Winthrop Yu of ISOC-PH provided a synthesis of the additional issues raised and recommendations agreed upon by the collective, before Al Alegre, FMA Executive Director, formally closed the program.