Data privacy law among challenges in contact tracing, Año admits
MANILA, Philippines — Interior Secretary Eduardo Año admitted Monday that the country’s data privacy law is among the hurdles being faced in tracing the close contacts of persons positive for COVID-19.
“Isa nating balakid dyan ay yung data privacy law natin, hindi nagbibigay ng full information,” Año said in an interview over Teleradyo when asked if there were any challenges in terms of contact tracing.
(One of the challenges there is our data privacy law. Full information cannot be disclosed.)
“Halimbawa may mga naconfine sa hospital, pag hiningi natin yung data, ang binibigay lang nila, pangalan ng patient. Walang telephone number, walang address. So another obstacle nanaman yun,” he added.
(For instance there’s a person who was confined in a hospital, if we ask for data, they only give the name of the patient. There’s no telephone number, no address. That’s another obstacle.)
Amid the challenges, Año said they are already in talks with hospitals to help them with the contact tracing of COVID-19 patients.
“Pero pwede naman kasi, without naming the names, provide the details. For example, patient 2051, sumakay sya sa MRT [Metro Rail Transit] ng ganitong oras, ng ganitong araw, siya ay nagtratrabaho sa ganitong building, siya ay umuuwi sa ganitong lugar,” Año said.
(But they can also provide details without naming the names. For example, patient 2051 rode the MRT at this time, on this day, they are working in this building and reside in this place.)
In an earlier statement, the National Privacy Commission (NPC) noted the importance of contact tracing while being mindful of the Data Privacy Act of 2012.
“The public must give accurate information for contact tracing to be effective. But for the public to respond, they must rely on authorities to balance the risks to their rights and security and the promised benefits to public health, with the assurance that their data is processed fairly, lawfully, and securely,” the NPC said.
The government has so far hired 73,306 contact tracers to help its efforts in reducing the spread of COVID-19, co-chair of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles earlier said.
The number is still more than 9,200 short of the target to hire 82,500 contact tracers.
Meanwhile, the Philippines now has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia with 129,913 infections, 2,270 deaths and 67,673 recoveries.
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