Probe launched into mass loss of nation’s passport data

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passport data

Claims that a past producer of Philippine passports stole applicants’ data after its contract was terminated are to be investigated.

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The National Privacy Commission yesterday (Saturday, January 12) said it will examine the Department of Foreign Affairs’ claim that the former passport maker “took away” all the data because it was “pissed”.

“We will summon the DFA and concerned agencies including the alleged contractor to determine the facts surrounding the case,” Privacy Commissioner Raymund Liboro said.

“Any form of non-availability of personal data, infringement of the rights of data subjects, and harms from processing that include inconveniencing the public, must be adequately explained to the satisfaction of the law.”

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The data-loss came to light after Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Tweeted that the previous contractor “got pissed when terminated it made off with data”.

He continued: “We did nothing about it or couldn’t because we were in the wrong. It won’t happen again. Passports pose national security issues and cannot be kept back by private entities. Data belongs to the state.” 

The DFA’s Assistant Secretary Elmer Cato said applicants renewing brown or green passports, as well as maroon machine-readable passports, were now required to resubmit their birth certificates.

“We need to capture and store the document in our database as we no longer have the physical copy of the document,” he said.

Locsin, meanwhile, has assured that the DFA was now in the process of “rebuilding” its files of passport data “from scratch”.

Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros has said DFA should give a full explanation to the public on how the incident happened and the extent of the data loss. “The Department of Foreign Affairs owes the entire country an explanation,” she said.

As we reported in April 2015, Oberthur Technologies SA of France was angered at losing its lucrative $50-million passport printing business in the Philippines.

After its contract with the DFA expired on January 15, 2015, the company allegedly made disparaging comments about the capability of state-owned APO Production Unit to do its former job.

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