(Photo by Luis on Wikimedia Commons)
EngageMedia joins a group of digital rights advocates and organisations opposing the proposed registration of SIM cards in the Philippines. Despite its intention as a crime deterrent, the proposal poses numerous threats to privacy and free expression.
This statement issued by the Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA) urges Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to veto the SIM Card Registration Act. If enacted, the measure will require citizens to provide their personal information before buying and activating SIM cards in an attempt to “deter the proliferation of SIM card, internet or electronic communication-aided crimes”. It will also require social media users to provide their real identities when creating accounts.
Digital rights and privacy advocates have sounded the alarm over the proposal. The groups pointed out that the measure not only has questionable effectiveness as a deterrent against crime, but it also poses a high potential for abuse and surveillance, among other threats to human rights.
Similar laws are currently in force in other Asia-Pacific countries, such as Bangladesh, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, and Vietnam. These measures have had serious implications on human rights. For instance, in 2017 Rohingya refugees were denied phone and internet access after the Bangladesh government banned telecommunications providers from selling SIM cards to the refugees, citing security risks. In Thailand’s insurgency-hit deep South, thousands of Malay Muslims are cut off from modern communication with the requirement for biometric registration.
As of posting, EngageMedia is one of 31 signatories in the FMA statement. Read the full statement here.