Privacy commission says collection of data from COVID-19 patients allowed
MANILA, Philippines — The National Privacy Commission (NPC) on Thursday reminded government agencies that while they are permitted to collect necessary data of Filipinos who are stricken by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), they are enjoined to disclose it only to proper authorities.
Privacy Commissioner Raymund Enriquez Liboro said government institutions are allowed under the Data Privacy Act of 2012 to “collect, use, and share” personal information of individuals, especially as the country is now placed under a state of calamity following the rise in the number of persons who tested positive for the disease.
“The principles contained in the law allow the use of data to treat patients, prevent imminent threats, and protect the country’s public health and still provide the level of protection the citizens expect. The Data Privacy Act of 2012 is an enabler in critical times like this,” Liboro explained in a statement.
Liboro noted the law also does not limit health authorities from using technology and databases to stop the spread of the virus.
“The direction is lawful and straightforward. Collect what is necessary. Disclose only to the proper authority,” he said.
In an interview, Liboro told INQUIRER.net that following the COVID-19 outbreak, the NPC had started receiving questions from various LGUs, DOH, and even private companies seeking clarification on how they should handle data of patients, considering the privacy issues concerned.
Liboro said the commission will continue to issue guidance to support health practitioners and government units so they can properly and effectively use personal data to ensure the safety and security of the public.
A list of frequently asked questions have also been collated by the NPC to answer questions raised by government agencies, private companies, and the public.
He said the commission will do its best to continue to respond to queries in the days ahead and is ready to facilitate the safe and rapid flow of data to be used in efforts to fight the spread of the disease.
“The power of data in responding to this global public health emergency cannot be overstated. The NPC is fully ready to help facilitate the safe and rapid flow of data to fight COVID-19,” he said.
As of Wednesday noon, the Department of Health has recorded a total of 202 individuals in the country who have tested positive for the disease. Of this number, 17 have died and seven have recovered.
COVID-19, which was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), is caused by a coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. The virus is related to that which causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome but is not as deadly, with only around three percent mortality rate.
WHO said 80 percent of patients experience mild illness and eventually recover from the disease, while some 14 percent experience severe illness and five percent were critically ill.
The virus is spread through small droplets from the nose or mouth when those infected cough or sneeze. Health authorities urge the public to practice frequent hand washing, cover their mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, and avoid close contact with those exhibiting respiratory symptoms to prevent infection.
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