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

Mara Cepeda
Makabayan bloc seeks House probe into StaySafe’s data privacy issues
'From the process of selection, effectivity, and data privacy, the interests of the Filipino people are put to great risk,' say progressive lawmakers pushing for the investigation

MANILA, Philippines – The progressive lawmakers in the Makabayan bloc are calling for a House investigation into the alleged 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 

The Makabayan bloc cited red flags earlier raised by IT experts,  including former Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) undersecretary Eliseo Rio Jr,  as enough reason for the House to dig deeper into the app’s alleged 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.

StaySafe, developed by tech firm Multisys Technologies Corporation, is the government’s official health monitoring and contact tracing platform. 

But former DICT official Rio and IT experts had warned of the platform’s irregularities, as well as data privacy concerns. These include excessive permissions and unclear parameters on how citizens’ information will be used after the COVID-19 crisis.  (READ: ‘Borderline spyware’: IT experts raise alarm over Duterte admin contact-tracing app) 

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

Months into the COVID-19 pandemic, the Philippines is still struggling with tracking down people who came into contact with confirmed coronavirus cases. 

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 countr tallied over 38,000 cases, with 1,270 deaths and 10,438 recoveries. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.