A Privacy Nightmare

I haven’t been writing on socially relevant issues for some time now, and I try not to, but this is too serious to pass up.

The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) has just committed a complete privacy blunder. Remember how people used to complain about voter registration and their precinct assignments and all that? They devised a not–so–brilliant solution: prepare a list of registered voters and post it online. Complete names, birthdates, and addresses included.

So I tried snooping, looking for a friend’s complete address. In less than five minutes I had the information. And the birthday. A little of connect–this and connect–that will get you more information than you’re ever supposed to know. Who knows what others could do with all these personal details.

As of writing, the list on the website cited is for the National Capital Region (NCR). Though that’s not all voters in the country, it includes a significant part of the Metro Manila population — politicians, celebrities, wealthy businessmen, maybe even children of Filipino–Chinese families. What a nightmare in the making.

Who could’ve possibly conceived this inexcusable idea? No wonder why our country never fails to fall short of international expectations. Common sense seems so hard to find for some people these days.

Philippine politics is a waste of time and the people’s hard–earned money, and the elections just add even more insult to injury.

(Credits to Bri for sharing the link to the list on his multiply site.)

Update: Reader naksd was quick to point out the COMELEC’s explanation for publishing the voters list. Though there are valid points in such a move, the risk to privacy is still significant and should’ve been a primary concern.

Update (2007/0322): The voters list has been taken offline for several days now. A victory for bloggers and online vigilance? You be the judge.

24 Responses

  1. Bobs!

    Wala ako sa list, hindi ako NCR. Thank gudness!

    Email mo COMELEC, or yung web admin or kung sino man. Lumalabas kabobohan nila.

  2. naksd, thanks for citing their explanation. I’m not sure if mainstream media will ever pick this up, but hopefully people will know.

  3. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Inquirer guys already picked this up. However, if that’s the case, it is even more surprising that no one has continued the discussion considering the privacy and security concerns involved.

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  5. hi.you can write the info dept of comelec.jimenez maintains the blogs.rafanan’s info is on the site also.while the law requires the publication of the voters list, di cguro dapat included ung address.Ang alam ko lang, precinct assignment.ill check my law and update this comment.:)

  6. please remove the link to the actual database ASAP, to stop it from reaching even more, and possibly malicious, users

  7. The voter’s list is a public document. But it shouldn’t have been as detailed as this. At least the data is in PDF, which raises the bar for data harvesters.

    On the bright side, we can extract nice statistics, like the most popular first names per year of birth. I bet there are a lot of John Pauls born in 1981. :p

  8. Guys and gals beware, your age cannot be kept secret anymore. :)

    Seriously though, I remember in one movie, “Tommy Boy” starring Chris Farley, he was able to obtain a voters registration in a library so I’m guessing there must be a need to have a custodian for these data, rather than making it EASILY available.

  9. the voter’s list may be a public document, but in the past you had to go through the hassle of red tape and bureaucracy to get one. this just makes it so easy. that the address is listed is particularly troubling.

    on the bright side, it’s useful if, say, someone you know that’s passed away is still listed. that way you can report it and (ideally) get their name off the list.

  10. Pingback: Bayanihan Blog Network » Blog Archive » What Price, Privacy?

  11. @xahbbx: Sorry my entry stays as it is, link and all, at least for now. There is nothing I or any blogger has done to make the situation worse. It was already there a long time ago.

    Besides, the question is still out in the open if indeed the COMELEC’s action is illegal. Stupid and careless? I think it is. But legality is a question of law, and I’m not in a position to judge.

    @seav: Just a little too much details, right? ;)

    @Regnard: Haha, now everyone will know who are the oldest pinoy bloggers. Hehe.

    @yuga: Not voting because of our ineffective political system is another debate altogether. :) I understand that incidents like this heavily contribute to the people’s disillusionment that a better future lies ahead for the Philippines.

    @jorge: You’re right, the address field has a purpose. We could also use it to check if a specific person indeed lives in the given address, thus making him a valid voter to pick the right mayor and municipal officials.

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  13. I kept forgetting to blog about this. When I saw the PDF files, I was like, “Nanaaaaay!!!” I wouldn’t have reacted so violently if COMELEC kept the information displayed there at the minimum. I thought na precinct assignments lang ang ipo-post (besides the name)? Beware the wrath of stalkers. ^_^ I saved the PDFs where my parents are listed.

    And of course the they’re cached. Trust Google to be the ever efficient search engine. *sighs* I’m almost convinced that my not being able to register is a blessing in disguise. I just know that a lot of people can’t wait to get their hands on me. :p

    PS: Science high schools, no comparisons? Get real. ;)

  14. Pingback: Are you a registered NCR voter? Your name & address have been online «

  15. Shari, yes the information available was scary indeed. Regarding google’s cache, I’m sure it will be purged soon.

    Regarding science high schools, hmm. Hehehe. Life is at real as it gets. We are based on our contributions to God and country, personal achievements are just icing on the cake. Basta, I don’t keep count. ;) Peace, sis. :)

    Ivan About Town, so I guess it’s possible that the information was already used by some ill individuals a long time ago? That’s make it even more scary.

  16. Expect a Part 2 of the Voters list online as pointed out in this news Article:

    http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/storypage.aspx?StoryId=70413

    “He added that the COMELEC is set to release an update of the voters’ list either at the end of this month or by first week of April. The new list will also be posted on its Web site (www.comelecncr.com). “

    Sige, gawin nyo ulit!

    Also if you read the news article, there is no mention of privacy, only prevention of “Electoral Fraud”

    Abangan!

  17. naksd, that news article could spell trouble. I just hope they make the effort to mask information that shouldn’t be available to everyone. We’ll see.

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