Yesterday, October 10, President Marcos Jr. signed the SIM Registration Law, making it the first law enacted under his administration. The law requires users to register their SIM cards using valid government IDs and documents. Legislators in support of the bill claim its relevance as a means to stop fraudulent spam messages and targeted text scams that became a recurring problem experienced by users since the height of the pandemic. Although this is a legitimate problem for many, the SIM Card Registration Law poses risks to women’s rights to communication, privacy, and digital security.
The SIM Card Registration Law disenfranchises women.
The registration which requires the use of valid government IDs may discriminate and disenfranchise Filipinos, especially women, and particularly those from far-flung areas, who cannot access their identification records with ease because of our government agencies’ inefficient bureaucratic processes. According to the law, unregistered sim cards will be deactivated and can no longer be used until they are registered.
The SIM Card Registration Law poses risks to women’s right to privacy.
Privately-owned mobile network providers will secure sim card holders’ personal information in their own databases. Given how weak our cybersecurity and data privacy practices are, as evidenced by the many data breaches we have had in the past, centralized databases will inevitably put Filipino’s personal information at risk.
The SIM Card Registration Law can curtail women’s right to freedom of opinion and expression.
This can be used for further mass surveillance and privacy invasion. The possession of personal information can be weaponized against activists, human rights defenders, and citizens who rightly voice their criticism of the current administration.
In the process of addressing cybercrimes and other technological dangers, people’s right to communication, privacy, and digital security must be respected, protected and promoted. Instead of another possibly endangering and disenfranchising measure, the government must strengthen the existing cybersecurity measures and review the implementation of the Data Privacy Act of 2012, and ensure people’s right to communication.