NPC probes spread of targeted SMS

THE National Privacy Commission (NPC) said it is monitoring and investigating the proliferation of unsolicited text messages from anonymous numbers, with some containing the receiver’s names.

“The NPC held a meeting with telecommunications providers today, September 1,2022, where the participants committed to intensify their technological and security safeguards, including the blocking of numbers to curb the surge immediately, among others,” said Privacy Commissioner John Henry D. Naga in a statement on Thursday.

Apart from Globe Telecom Inc., Smart Comm Wunications Inc., and Dito Telecommunity Corp., which were the telco providers present on Thursday, NPC said it is also coordinating with the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to share information and conduct concerted actions to the full extent of their respective mandates.

Moreover, NPC said it will hold an open and public webinar on September 7 to discuss the risks and harm of receiving these text messages. NPC said it will also talk about the best practices to protect ourselves from being scammed. The country’s Privacy Commission also intends to share other useful information that “we can apply to our daily lives.”

The Commission also invites everyone to participate in the upcoming webinar.

“Consistent with our thrust to empower our citizens, we urge vigilance in protecting personal data, whether online or offline, especially in activities that require the disclosure of names, numbers, and other information that could divulge our identities,” Naga said.

Supreme Court (SC) Senior Associate Justice Marvic Leonen said in his Twitter post on Tuesday, “Unsolicited or scam text messages on our phones already contain our names. This means that there is a data provider out there that has leaked or sold or been careless about our information. This makes all of us now vulnerable. Very dangerous.”

On Thursday, a network of digital advocates also asked the NPC to investigate spam texts with the names of the recipients included in the text.

Digital Pinoys national campaigner Ronald Gustilo, in a news statement, said the NPC should immediately address the concerns of the spam text recipients who are alarmed at how the sender was able to know their identity in what seemed like a “personalized spam text.”

Gustilo also told the NPC that the agency should find out and immediately seek prosecution if there are cohorts based locally and whether local companies collecting personal information are selling these data to third parties. 

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