Thursday, February 22, 2024

NPC cites PasigPass, asks LGUs to meld data privacy in contact-tracing apps

The National Privacy Commission (NPC) has commended Pasig City, one of the first local government units (LGUs) to deploy a contact-tracing app for a more effective Covid-19 response and to use printed QR codes for poor residents, for its efforts to improve compliance with the Data Privacy Act (DPA).

Pasig City mayor Vico Sotto (Photo from Pasig PIO)

During a recent three-day webinar conducted by the NPC for the city’s government employees, the privacy body cited Pasig City’s efforts to integrate data privacy principles in its overall operations, especially in contact tracing.

The city was among the first LGUs to launch a contact-tracing app. The move, Pasig City mayor Vico Sotto said, was to reduce transmission and address a wave of complaints that people were receiving marketing messages after filling out contact-tracing forms, an indication of wide data misuse.

“With a digital solution, we’re able to safeguard against these things. We’re able to have the proper grade of encryption, we’re able to comply with the Data Privacy Act, we are able to limit who has access to the data. We make sure we only look at the data when it’s absolutely necessary for contact tracing,” Sotto said on May 27 at the 4th National Data Conference to celebrate Privacy Awareness Week.

Recognizing that “privacy is a fundamental right,” the city government, according to Sotto, has ensured that its contact-tracing app, PasigPass, is “fully compliant” with the DPA, noting the LGU is “close to paranoid” to ensure the system allows no room for data breaches.

With over 2.61 million registrations, including non-Pasig residents visiting the city, PasigPass will soon be integrated into the StaySafe, which serves as the national contact-tracing platform.

The NPC said it is working closely with Pasig City and other LGUs to help ensure a smooth integration of their apps into StaySafe, which works only with smartphones, thus excluding those with 2G phones, mostly the poor.

Pasig has allowed the poor to use printed QR codes instead of digital ones that are generated by smartphones so they can enter establishments.

“We laud Pasig City for seeing the values of building inclusivity and trust in apps and digital tools. For this, the PasigPass is proving effective in containing the Covid-19 pandemic,” NPC chief Raymund Liboro said as he urged LGUs to also ensure the compliance of their digital contact-tracing solutions with the DPA.

“LGUs must ensure from the design stage that the apps they introduce to the public are solidly built on the principles of legitimate purpose, proportionality, and transparency. With these principles in place, users will deem apps trustworthy and share information about themselves without fear of misuse or discrimination,” Liboro said.

The NPC will be holding more capacity-building activities with LGUs, similar to what was held for Pasig, to equip more offices with the best practices in data privacy and protection, according to Liboro.

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