Press Release: The Dangers of the CyberCrime Act

It really amazes me how some of our legislators come up with ideas for new laws especially when the bills they propose are riddled with ambiguities, sometimes devoid of reason and out of touch with reality. Another such proposed bill is HOUSE BILL NO. 6794 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2009.

Fortunately, some of our lawmakers take time to really study proposed legislation and weigh it against the objective interests of the public including our civil and political rights. Let me share a press release from KABATAAN party-list about their stand on the proposed CyberCrime Act.

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Bill will not resolve hacking of gov’t websites

Kabataan Party-list Rep. Mong Palatino today called on the House of Representatives to re-evaluate and stop the passing of the HB 6974 CyberCrime Prevention Act of 2009 which is up for third reading when session resumes.

Palatino said that his opposition to the proposed bill is for similar reasons that he is against the Right of Reply Bill. “The bill may be used to stifle freedom of expression, speech and the press and may violate the people’s right to privacy. The definition of ‘cybercrime’ in the bill is vague and its scope overly-broad that it may criminalize ordinary electronic activities of any Tom, Dick or Harry who uses the Internet, a mobile phone or any electronic device,” he said.

He cited, for instance, Section 4 of the bill prohibiting the “recording, distribution and exhibition of recorded ‘private acts’ and ‘other obscene and indecent acts’ are NOT limited to sexual acts alone and thus not sufficiently defined. “How will this affect the right of citizens to freedom of speech and expression especially with regard to issues of public concern? Will the scrupulous acts of public officials be considered “private acts”? How will this affect media exposes and investigative reportage on corrupt practices in the government?”

On the threat to right to privacy, Palatino pointed to Section 9 of the bill which empowers the government to monitor activities and access private accounts of persons suspected of committing “cybercrimes,” even activities and files that are not related to said punishable acts.

“For example, for the government to pin-point an activity which is criminal in nature according to the Act, it has to monitor all other activities of an individual at a given time, and worse may expose the activities of other individuals using the same computer system or server at the same time. For the government to access a malicious file in an individual’s hard drive, it has to confiscate and search through the entire storage device, thus exposing all other personal files and correspondence to government access and intrusion, even those unrelated to the ‘cybercrime’. This is dangerous because it gives the government an excuse to justify illegal fishing expeditions against ordinary citizens and allows the wanton violation of the strict requirements in criminal procedure.”

Palatino said that he will ask the House leadership to return the bill to second reading to thresh out all vague and controversial provisions. “We should also consult netizens, the online media and other stakeholders before we pass any bill that directly affects them.”

The young solon also said that HB 6974 will not resolve the problem of government websites being hacked. “What the government should do is to strengthen its IT network, improve the IT infrastructure and foster the development of IT in the country in order to empower institutions and individuals against malicious technological infringements. Compromising the rights of citizens in the use of IT is not a resolution.”

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Besides addressing its own IT problems first, the government should look into the predatory practices of telecommunication firms and their ISP subsidiaries so that consumers woes could finally be addressed. More on this in the coming days.

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