These pending bills may affect how we communicate with each other
Have you heard about the “No Call, No Text” and SIM Card Registration bills?
Today, I am taking a break from the Data Privacy Act discussions and update you on these bills currently before the Committee on Information and Communications Technology of the House of Representatives.
SIM Card Registration Bill
Let’s begin with the SIM registration bill (I will no longer link to the House bills as there is already a draft substitute bill prepaid by the Committee) since this is probably a bit more familiar to you. The bill seeks to require prepaid SIM users to register with their respective telecommunications providers (“telcos”) when they buy a SIM card. There will be a “No ID, No SIM” policy, in the sense that the buyer would need to present a valid government identification before s/he would be allowed to buy a SIM. This initiative is being pursued by Congress to address what they see as worsening peace and order situation.
Aside from the registration, the bill also mandates the creation of a SIM Card Registry, to be house with the National Telecommunications Commission. In a previous Technical Working Group (TWG) meeting, the TWG participants have agreed to transfer the SIM Card Registry to the National Privacy Commission (NPC).
In today’s discussion, there were comments on the inclusion of biometric information in the registry to ensure that subscriber is who s/he says s/he is. I commented though that this may go against the principle of proportionality since this would be over-collection: we are going beyond the ostensible rationale for the bill—which originally was to attach a name to a prepaid number. I also cautioned on the costs and information security risks attendant to collecting and storing so much personal information.
The legislators and resource persons also wanted to make the ID requirements more stringent. There was a suggestion that only government-issued IDs should be acceptable. There was another suggestions that, for minors, the SIM registration should be done by their parents. Parents would be required to submit an NSO-certified birth certificate for each SIM registered for the use of their children. Again, I cautioned against making registration too difficult for ordinary Filipinos. I felt it was important to raise the point that criminals and terrorists who abuse communications facilities comprise not even 1% of the population. Let’s not unduly burden innocent, law-abiding Filipinos just to make it difficult for the guilty few. (Let’s not even get into the dubious efficacy of SIM registration in fighting/preventing crime.)
In case you’re wondering, under the bill, the current prepaid users will be given 180 days (six months) within which to register. If they fail to do so within the period, their SIMs get automatically deactivated.
The ICT Committee will wait for the proposed revisions of the NPC before referring the substitute bill to the mother Committee.
No Call, No Text Bill
The No Call, No Text bill addresses the problem of unsolicited calls or text messages. The prohibited call or text “refers to a hoax/junk and/or scam call and/or text.” A No Call, No Text Registry is not new. Similar databases are maintained by different government authorities in other jurisdictions. Such a registry has become a necessity with the advent of technology that enabled mass-sending of automated and unsolicited calls and text messages.
How does the bill protect consumers? There are two ways:
Registration in the No Call, No Text Registry. Once registered, a user shall not be contacted via call or text and be the subject of prohibited calls and texts.
Users may choose the negative option feature. This means that message sender (whether call or text) has the obligation to immediately provide to the user his/her name, company, contact number, purpose of the call, and information on the negative option. If the user chooses the negative option, this means that the message sender must immediately end the communication.
Note that the violators of the No Call, No Text is not limited to marketers. There is even no threshold number of call/text recipients indicated in the bill. Thus, even if you call just ONE person who is in the Registry, that would be considered a violation of this Act.
As with the SIM Card Registration bill, the No Call, No Text Registry was initially proposed to be lodged with the NTC. However, in previous TWG discussions, the participants have agreed that the Registry should be under the NPC.
Aside from the need to fine-tune the language in some sections, no significant objections were made on the bill. Thus, this was referred to the mother Committee, but subject to the revisions to be proposed by the NPC.
No word yet on when the ICT Committee will next meet. I’ll be posting updates when there’s movement on both bills.