Makabayan bloc seeks House probe into StaySafe’s data privacy issues

The progressive lawmakers in the Makabayan bloc are calling for a House investigation on the irregularities and data privacy issues hounding StaySafe PH, the Duterte government’s official contact-tracing platform for coronavirus cases.

The following lawmakers filed on Monday, June 29, House Resolution (HR) No. 1009, a copy of which was sent to reporters on Thursday, July 2:

  • Bayan Muna Representatives Carlos Zarate, Ferdinand Gaite, and Eufemia Cullamat
  • ACT Teachers Representative France Castro
  • Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Arlene Brosas
  • Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago

StaySafe is the official health monitoring and contact tracing platform being used by President Rodrigo Duterte’s government. It was developed by a private tech firm Multisys Technologies Corporation.

But no less than former Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) undersecretary Eliseo Rio Jr – who has since resigned – and various IT experts warned the platform is riddled with irregularities and data privacy concerns. (READ: 'Borderline spyware': IT experts raise alarm over Duterte admin contact-tracing app)

These include excessive permissions and unclear parameters on how citizens' information will be used after the COVID-19 crisis. (READ: StaySafe developer says Rio accusations ‘unfair’)

Rio – who stepped down from his post after supposedly being left in the dark by DICT Secretary Gregorio Honasan on the use of confidential funds – said there was also no proper vetting of StaySafe’s technology before the government endorsed it.

The Makabayan bloc said these red flags are enough reason for the House of Representatives to dig deeper into the app's anomalies.

“These issues surrounding StaySafe touches many grounds for thorough investigation by government bodies. From the process of selection, effectivity, and data privacy, the interests of the Filipino people are put to great risks,” the lawmakers said.

“As all government funds, resources, and efforts, not to mention crippling borrowings are being put into COVID-19 responses, the House of Representatives should be proactively on guard against issues of corruption, abuse, and breaches to the rights and welfare of our people,” the Makabayan bloc added.

Months into the COVID-19 pandemic, the Philippines is still struggling with properly tracing the people with whom confirmed cases have made contact. T

The Duterte government is nowhere near containing the disease, with cases still steadily rising. (READ: Pandemic unravels Duterte's 2016 promise of decisive leadership)

As of Wednesday, July 1, the country has tallied over 38,000 cases with 1,270 deaths and 10,438 recoveries. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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