Marcos signs SIM Registration Act, sparking data privacy, safety concerns

A vendor arranges mobile telephone SIM card at a store in the Manila. President Marcos signed the mandatory SIM Registration Act on Oct. 10, 2022.
FILE PHOTO: A vendor arranges mobile telephone SIM card at a store in the Manila area on January 27, 2011. Philippine President Marcos signed the mandatory SIM Registration Act into law on October 10, 2022. (PHOTO: NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images)

President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on Monday (Oct 10) signed a measure mandating all SIM card users to register information like full names and addresses, sparking concerns on data privacy and safety.

Under the SIM Card Registration Act, telecommunications companies and direct sellers are required to ask for a valid ID with a photo from SIM card users.

“We will soon be able to provide law enforcement agencies the tools needed to resolve crimes perpetrated with the use of these SIM cards as well as providing a strong deterrence against the commission of wrongdoing,” Marcos said during the signing at the Ceremonial Hall in Malacañang.

The law also directs telcos to disclose the information contained in the SIM card registration to law enforcement agencies should they ask for it, a means strongly opposed by progressives and human rights advocates amid intensified red-tagging, killings, and arrests by the government since the Duterte administration.

In a statement on Monday (Oct 10), the Computer Professionals’ Union (CPU), an organization of ICT practitioners and professionals, condemned the signing of the Act saying that the measure has already been proven “ineffective in addressing crime and further endangers people’s information.”

“The CPU reiterates its stand that the mandatory SIM registration puts at risk our right to privacy and data protection. It is ineffective and has its ill effects as seen in other countries that have implemented it,” CPU said.

Effects on communities

Meanwhile, scientists organization AGHAM - Advocates of Science and Technology for the People said that the measure will ‘disenfranchise’ millions of cellphone users especially marginalized communities due to lack of resources to register their SIM cards.

"Marginalized communities such as urban poor, poor farmers and indigenous peoples from far flung areas will suffer as they have little means to register their SIM card. They lack valid identification cards and economic means to process their registration as required under the proposed bill," AGHAM Chairperson Chuckie Calsado said.

“The bill does not specifically address the issue of sim cards as a tool for hackers using it for spam and scamming activities, as it only mentioned the penalization for the breach of confidentiality and negligence from companies. Therefore, the SIM Registration Bill would only criminalize the acts of citizens who would fail to register their sim card but not the intended groups or individuals who will deliberately misuse it,” the organization further noted.

Under the law, existing SIM card subscribers will be given 180 days to register and verify their phone numbers with telcos.

Pola Rubio is a news writer and photojournalist covering Philippine politics and events. She regularly follows worldwide and local happenings. She advocates for animal welfare and press freedom. Follow her on Twitter @polarubyo for regular news and cat postings.

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