Data privacy and protection important for PH, says top IBM exec

By Espie Angelica A. de Leon

Data privacy has strong relevance in the Philippines with Filipinos going online for an average of six hours a day and the country being one of the fastest growing in the world in terms of output and GDP.

IBM Asia Pacific chair and CEO Harriet Green

“People of the Philippines spend more time online than any other nation in the world according to anyone and everyone who measures it,” disclosed Harriet Green, IBM Asia Pacific (APAC) chair and CEO.

Green was speaking at a media roundtable discussion on data governance and artificial intelligence (AI) at Shangri-la Hotel at the Fort Manila on August 15 along with other top IBM executives.

Data protection, she revealed, is important on a personal level as each individual has the responsibility to protect his own data. This involves making decisions regarding privacy settings, which tools to use, which information to share online, and who to partner with.

In making these decisions, one has to ask these questions: What is the data policy of the company? Is it clearly stipulated? Do they have a chief privacy officer? Have they had breaches? What did they do in the case of a breach?

These questions drive home the point that data protection as well as transparency on AI use is also the responsibility of companies.

According to IBM APAC head of security JC Broido, three of the largest banks in the Philippines which the tech company works with face multiple cyber attacks per day, including phishing. Broido’s team looked into these incidents and discovered that very organized gangs were responsible for the attacks.

As far as IBM is concerned, Green said that the company sticks to the principle that whatever data they have is the clients’ data. “If we want to use that for anything, we explicitly and clearly ask the client for their express permission,” she said, adding that with global industries now jumping on the digitization bandwagon, 80% of the world’s data belongs to enterprises and is therefore not searchable.

IBM Asia Pacific head of security JC Broido

Data privacy and protection also involve the government. Government policies are called for in specific situations when citizens fail to safeguard their own data and the companies involved don’t have robust data protection strategies in place for their clients.

On this note, IBM Australia’s Stephen Braim said that he is pleased at how the Philippine government is taking appropriate steps to come up with such policies.

“Once privacy laws come into place in countries, you don’t see government saying ‘Let’s have an ongoing industry discussion.’ But it happens here,” he explained. “It’s very pragmatic, it’s very engaged – mixing industry with consumer groups together.”

Summing up the discussion, Green stated that data is the new oil.

“Here in the Philippines, your number 1 industry is services, your number 2 industry is BPO. All of it is driven around the information and the data and the insights that we are working on for clients worldwide,” she said. “Imagine if there was no protection as the oil came gushing out of the ground.”

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