By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
Manila – A lawmaker has warned the Department of Justice (DOJ) against compromising the safety and integrity of government data. This after reports came out that the DOJ has opened its email services for public bidding. The approved budget for the project is P2,709,504 ($63,011).
Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño said the DOJ should “tread carefully” in bidding out its e-mail and related cloud services to foreign corporations, saying that the move might “imperil the safety and integrity of government data, especially DOJ data in terms of storage, access and even sovereignty.”
According to reports, the DOJ project requires 1,200 seats for cloud services that include email, instant messaging, document repository and peer to peer audio/video conferencing for one year to be given to about 10,000 users across the DOJ portfolio.
“What is dangerous here is that there is no government policy with regard to the data storage of whomever the server will be. It would be best for the DOJ and all state agencies for that matter to bid out cloud services to Filipino IT firms that will store the information within our country’s borders. If cloud services are given to a foreign IT firm that shall store data in a foreign country such as the US, that country’s laws such shall govern the access to our own government’s data whether we like it or not. That is dangerous.That will violate our own sovereignty,” Casiño said.
Earlier in February, Casiño filed House Resolution (HR) 2141 directing the Committee on Information and Communications Technology to conduct an inquiry on the use of off-dhore cloud computing services for government data and networks. He filed the resolution in the wake of the Department of Budget and Management’s (DBM) finalization of its their partnership with IP Converge Data Center, Inc. (PSE: ‘CLOUD’), the local re-seller of Google Apps and other cloud-based office productivity tools a month earlier.
Casiño explained that tapping the efficiency of cloud-computing technology is good as shared resources and software are made available to multiple computers through a network.
” Instead of purchasing and installing office applications for each and every computer used by an organization or business, cloud users can easily access the applications through a web browser or a lightweight desktop program. This makes software updating and file sharing faster and easier,” he said.
He went to on to say that cloud software also keeps computers from being bogged down with applications and files.
“But Congress should consider the implications of using a cloud service based in another country. This not only opens up our government data to the mercy of foreign governments, it also is an insult to Filipino IT firms that can provide the same services without having to give access to foreign firms and governments to sensitive data – especially private exchanges through e-mail ,” Casiño said.
In HR 2141, Casiño further pointed out that Google itself has revealed in its transparency report that it has complied with 93 percent of the 5,950 user data requests from the US government, stating that “Google regularly receives requests from government agencies and courts around the world to remove content from our services and hand over user data.”
This, Casiño said, reveals that having data with US-based providers and even subsidiaries of any US-headquartered company is especially risky since the USA Patriot Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001) gives the US government power to access private data from American companies, including IT service providers, some of which are handling outsourced data from various countries.
“The policy issue on whether sensitive data such as official government communications should be allowed to reside outside the country as a matter of national sovereignty and security has yet to be addressed. The risk of data being stored in other countries is the reality that the data may be legally compromised should the government of the hosting country use its laws to get access to our information is only too high. I strongly suggest to the DOJ and all government agencies bidding out its email and other cloud services to limit the bidders to Filipino IT firms while Congress tackles the issue and come up with the appropriate policies on the matter,” Casiño said.