Campaigns through text: A breach of data privacy?
CEBU CITY, Philippines — While data has increasingly grown in importance during the pandemic as phone numbers can already be used for official transactions, netizens have grown wary of political parties gaining access to their phone numbers.
A mother from Cebu City, Pia Gabuya, posted a text message from what appears to be a smear campaign against mayoral candidate, David Tumulak.
“To the people of Pardo:
What has Dave Tumulak done for Pardo?
He is a Pardohanon. He served 9 years as city councilor, switching to whatever party is in power.”
“So what has he done for you? What did he receive for being a balimbing? Did he share his connections for the good of Pardo?”
CDN Digital has also received the same message from the unknown sender.
Pia said that she felt violated that her phone number could be accessed without her permission by these political entities.
Similarly, a government employee has also posted a text message from an unknown number greeting him a happy birthday from Tomas and Margot Osmeña of Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan (BO-PK).
Margot Osmeña is running for mayor in Cebu City.
He questioned how BO-PK has gotten hold of his personal phone number.
CDN Digital has reached out to BO-PK but is yet to receive a response.
These text messages are not just limited to local politicians.
Kim, a resident of Consolacion town, told CDN Digital she has received unwanted text messages from the UniTeam camp seeking volunteers.
She did not know how the camp got her number and feared that they may have access to her data.
Another worker from Cebu City also complained to CDN Digital over these unwanted messages from candidates.
“Ever since we started giving away our numbers to establishments for contact tracing, I’ve lost track of who has my contact number or my information in general. It’s a very violating feeling,” said Alyssa Cataluña, a resident of the Cebu City North District.
Marilou Paredes, the acting election officer of the Cebu City South District, said that technically, these text campaigns are not election violations.
However, with the growing concern of cybersecurity and data privacy, she understands that people are now protective of their own data.
Even she has received messages from candidates through her personal number.
“Wala gyod tay regulations anang text messages pero pwede kaayo sila mocomplain gihapon nato if they feel violated. Pwede sila mocomplain sa Comelec and sa National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).”
“Mismo kita wala pud ta kahibaw giunsa nila pagkuha anang mga numbers,” she said.
She noted that text blasts have been common for many elections in the past, but she understands the situation is different now with the growing concern for data privacy.
Paredes said she will raise these concerns in their next meeting with election officers in Cebu on Monday, March 28, 2022.
She said that Comelec hears the discomfort of voters feeling violated that their data privacy may have been breached so they will tackle the issue in the proper forum.
She encouraged them to complain to the NTC as well so the national commission can address this issue with the telecommunication companies. /rcg
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