Filipinos fear mis­use of pass­port data

Out­sourced agency re­port­edly ran away with data after con­tract ter­mi­na­tion

Gulf News - - Nation - BY JAN­ICE PONCE DE LEON Staff Re­porter

Filipinos in the UAE have ex­pressed con­cern over the risk of iden­tity theft since news broke that an out­sourced com­pany con­tracted by the gov­ern­ment in Manila to fa­cil­i­tate pass­port ap­pli­ca­tions had run away with the data.

For­eign Af­fairs Sec­re­tary Teodoro Loc­sin Jr said on Satur­day that a ter­mi­nated out­sourc­ing com­pany “took away” the per­sonal data of pass­port hold­ers.

“We are re­build­ing our files from scratch be­cause the pre­vi­ous out­sourced pass­port-maker took [away] all the data when the con­tract [was] ter­mi­nated,” Loc­sin said through his per­sonal Twit­ter han­dle. Loc­sin ex­plained that the pre­vi­ous con­trac­tor got upset when their ser­vices were ter­mi­nated and “made off with [the] data”.

“We couldn’t do any­thing about it be­cause we were in the wrong. It won’t hap­pen again. Pass­ports pose na­tional se­cu­rity is­sues and can­not be held back by pri­vate en­ti­ties. Data be­longs to the state,” Loc­sin, who was ap­pointed as for­eign sec­re­tary in Oc­to­ber, said.

To “re­build our files”, Loc­sin said, the Depart­ment of For­eign Af­fairs had started ask­ing ap­pli­cants to bring their birth cer­tifi­cates. He, how­ever, did not spec­ify when the data pil­fer­age oc­curred.

Dubai-based at­tor­ney Bar­ney Al Mazar, di­rec­tor of Gulf Law, ques­tioned the in­ac­tion of the gov­ern­ment as the en­tire in­ci­dent posed a ma­jor threat to Filipinos.

“The gov­ern­ment is the cus­to­dian of doc­u­ments and pass­port data, but the owner of the in­for­ma­tion is the per­son him­self. The in­for­ma­tion of the pub­lic has been put in dan­ger. The big­gest risk is iden­tity theft,” Al Mazar told Gulf News. “If the out­sourced com­pany is with­hold­ing the data, the gov­ern­ment has the au­thor­ity to seize it. If not, that data could be mis­used, stolen or sold,” he ex­plained.

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