Contact tracing forms could just be used for data mining, ex-Comelec exec warns
MANILA, Philippines — A former Commission on Elections (Comelec) official has warned the public about the possibility that some contact tracing forms being filled up amid the COVID-19 pandemic could just be for gathering people’s data.
Ex-Comelec commissioner and lawyer Gregorio Larrazabal speculated on Wednesday that some people may be using information placed by people before entering commercial establishments — as part of contact tracing requirements — for data mining.
Data mining is a process where private businesses or firms use raw data, such as names, addresses, and contact details into more useful information by compiling it according to trends, age brackets, location.
These are then sometimes sold discretely to companies who would need targeted marketing and advertising — raising issues on whether the practice is ethical and legal.
“Unpopular opinion – Those contract tracing forms you’ve been filling up? Those could just be used for data mining…,” Larrazabal said in on Twitter.
Unpopular opinion – Those contract tracing forms you've been filling up?
Those could just be used for data mining…
— Goyo Y. Larrazabal (@GoyYLarrazabal) March 30, 2021
Several private individuals who replied on Larrazabal’s tweet also raised the same concerns, with some saying that they have received targeted advertisements and calls from companies offering products.
Some also noted that there is no clear explanation on where the pieces of information go after it has been filled up. Others say that while it is safer to use phones to register upon entry, it might be better to write down physically as the written down information does not immediately go to a database.
“Several instances na may tumawag sakin selling or asking to register on something,” one netizen said.
“Not the ones na nasa papel, kasi karamihan ng nakasulat.. scribbles. Pero yung e-forms […] yes. Been getting spam email,” another added.
There are also people who have resorted to placing fake numbers in contact tracing forms as they experienced calls from marketing staffers after placing legitimate phone numbers.
“Yes… hence I put in fake phone numbers. Kasi 1st month last year diligently answered it then ang daming telemarketers afterwards!!!” a Twitter user said.
Several netizens also speculated that the numbers are being used by political parties gearing to make a run in the 2022 National Elections.
Prior to leaving Comelec, Larrazabal headed the commission’s steering committee from 2009 to 2011, which oversaw the first-ever automated national election in the country. Since then, he has worn other hats including one as a poll watchdog with the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting.
Contact tracing forms were mandated as a precautionary measure against the COVID-19 pandemic, as people can be informed that someone who was inside the same facility with them, at the same time, contracted the coronavirus.
This allows possibly exposed individuals to do self-isolation and observe for symptoms of COVID-19, increasing the likelihood of early detection and prevention.
As of now, the surge in COVID-19 cases has forced the government to place Metro Manila and nearby provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal under an enhanced community quarantine.
This surge is attributed by health experts to the spread of variants of concern, which are believed to be more transmissible and infectious.
The Inquirer Foundation supports our healthcare frontliners and is still accepting cash donations to be deposited at Banco de Oro (BDO) current account #007960018860 or donate through PayMaya using this link .
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.