By Rafi Koteh
Experts from various sectors and regions of the country gathered last January 18 for “Panopticon”, a privacy and ICT conference organized by the Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA) and the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU).
Inspired by a type of circular prison built with a central watchtower, the name Panopticon was chosen to emphasize the increasing accessibility of personal data through technology.
“More people have Internet access and that’s a good thing,” stated ADMU president Fr. Jose Ramon Villarin, who spoke at the opening of the event held. “But access also means exposure, and I do not know how aware we are of security concerns that can also undermine the well-being, safety, and rights of others.”
The conference’s theme “Privacy Advocacy in a Data-driven Society” stimulated an animated discussion on the privacy and data protection in the Philippines. Many questions were posed by the audience in each of its five panel sessions.
In the first session, “Privacy and Data Protection: Regional Perspectives”, the discussion revolved around the state of the country’s data privacy outside Metro Manila.
The next discussion, “Data Protection in the Classroom”, gathered data protection officers (DPOs) from Metro Manila’s universities to present the processes and strategies they use to safeguard the data of students and faculty members.
The schools represented were De La Salle University, De La Salle University-College of Saint Benilde, the Asian Institute of Management, and the University of the Philippines Diliman.
The third forum on “Internet Intermediaries, Privacy, and a Borderless World” focused on the increasing role of the Internet and online platforms in connecting the Philippines with the rest of the globe. It also tackled the implications of these online developments on Filipinos’ data privacy.
The fourth session, “Data-Driven Societies and the Individual Right to Privacy,” directed the discussion towards current and emerging data intensive systems in the country’s government and its private sector. The National Identification System was the focus of the audience during the panel discussion.
The last segment on “The Privacy Professional,” allowed the audience to tackle the issues faced by local DPOs and other privacy professionals in the country. The opportunities presented by in growing field were also discussed.
“We have to constantly be aware of the privacy ecosystem, the rapidly changing world, the emerging threats,” stressed NPC deputy privacy commissioner Ivy Patdu in her speech during the opening of the conference.
“We should not be afraid, but rather let us accept all these realities with open eyes and allow it to drive us as we move forward to know which direction we need to take to commit to the protection of our personal information.”
The event’s panelists came from government organizations, non-government organizations, the private sector, the media, and the academe.
Other prominent speakers who spoke during the event included FMA president Philip Arnold Tuaño, FMA executive director Liza Garcia, and Jamael Jacob, policy and legal advisor for the FMA and DPO of ADMU’s University Data Protection Office.