‘The bill is deeply flawed’: Groups seek to veto SIM card registration act

March 2, 2022 - 7:57 PM
Sim Card Registration Act Philippines
The proposed "SIM Card Registration Act", already ratified by Congress and waiting for President Rodrigo Duterte, has a provision stating that "all social media account providers shall require [the] real name and phone number [of a user] upon creation of account." (Philstar.com artwork)

Two non-profit organizations launched online petitions to veo the SIM Card Registration Bill over privacy concerns and possible rights violations.

The bill called the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) Card Registration Act is now ratified and up for President Rodrigo Duterte for signature.

The proposed measure aims to curb bank fraud, text scams, online defamation, terrorism and other crimes related to cybersecurity.

Officials from telecommunications firms Smart Communications and Globe Telecom welcomed this bill and expressed readiness to comply with it.

However, some groups and concerned Filipinos raised concerns over a few of its provisions.

These include the requirement for users to disclose their personal details as pre-requisites for the sale and activation of their subscriptions or accounts.

READ: ‘Overkill’: Concerns on privacy risks raised over proposed SIM card registration Act 

Those criticizing the bill fear its possible impact should it be signed into law.

The two petitions

Democracy.Net PH, a rights group dedicated to promoting information and communications technology, and Computer Professionals Union (CPU), a group that advocates reform for information and communication technology in the Philippines, released separate petitions that seek to veto the bill altogether.

In its petition, Democracy.Net acknowledged the good intentions for creating the bill.

However, the group pointed out that the “flawed” and vague provisions pose privacy and safety risks to the users instead.

“The intent and purpose of trying to eliminate illegal activities enabled by mobile phones, the Internet, or other electronic communication-aided crimes are noble. However, the bill is deeply flawed. It contains provisions that are overly vague, violates constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression, freedom of association, personal privacy, and endangers the safety of Filipino citizens and children,” the group said.

For the petitioners, the bill:

  • Treats online activities as criminal acts such as “trolling,” “hate speech,” and “spread of disinformation.”
  • Limits the usage of fictitious or anonymous identities when registering accounts, which are normally practiced in many communities, firms, brands and any types of entities.
  • Mandates disclosure of personal information to social media providers including phone numbers and real names.
  • Poses a threat to children’s safety.

As of writing, this petition has 64,319 signatures out of the target 75,000.

The CPU likewise raised the same privacy concerns and the threat to freedom of expression and speech.

ALSO READ: ‘Real name’ social media registration seen to risk free speech, privacy and identity

The union also pointed out that providing real names online poses risks for all people, including celebrities, activities, and even victims of abuse and violence.

“In addition, it robs us of the additional security that anonymity gives us, especially for celebrities, public figures, influencers, activists, human rights defenders, victims of domestic abuse and violence against women and children, and even individuals who simply wish to compartmentalize their personal lives from the rest of their activities,” the group said.

As of writing, this online appeal has 25,415 signatures out of the target 35,000.