‘DFA should have ensured passport data is incorruptible, readily accessible to gov’t’

Philippine passport

“There are technological solutions it could implement to prevent data corruption.”



MANILA – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) remains accountable to any burden or risk to the passport holders arising from the passport data mess.

In a message emailed to Bulatlat, IT specialist Angel Averia described the latest twist in the passport data problem as one where everyone involved (the government and its private contractors) are simply washing their hands off the mess.

Late last week, in the face of public outcry over what was first reported as DFA’s loss of passport data, the DFA and its former contractor, APO, clarified they have the data all along. These data, they said, are in fact in the equipment turned over by UGEC, the subcontractor tapped by APO.

The DFA said in a statement January 21 that it remains in custody and control of passport data. It sought to reassure fears of identity theft saying the data “has not been shared with or accessed by any unauthorized party.”

On January 21, the DFA also met with the National Privacy Commission (NPC) and said “measures are in place to protect the personal data of passport applicants.”

But the DFA still has to answer to its failure in ensuring the data collected by its private contractors are not easily corruptible or inaccessible whether they are pissed off or not. Averia said the still unanswered problem is that these data are in a format that is inaccessible to APO, but lately, they said, their tech managed to access some of the data. Some of the data were reportedly not accessed because it had been corrupted and destroyed or in a different format.

Data corruption is preventable, said Averia. He said the government failed to ensure that the data they were collecting would not be corrupted, when “There are technological solutions it could have implemented to prevent it. In disk storage, there is the what we call as RAID technology,” Averia explained.

RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks, originally Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) is a data storage virtualization technology that combines multiple physical disk drive components into one or more logical units for the purposes of data redundancy, performance improvement, or both.

Averia said the government should have ensured that it has an online backup.  “Whatever is being written in primary storage should have been written also in a backup storage,” Averia explained.

The Filipinos cannot just let such a passport data mess to go unpunished and uncorrected. According to the overseas Filipino workers’ advocates, the DFA must take (and share) concrete measures to secure the data, and eradicate the burden, inconvenience and risks which its loss or inaccessibility or corruptibility might cause the passport holders and applicants.

Averia added the government has also failed to ensure the compatibility in data formats used by the government and the contractors.

In their contracts with private players, “They should have stated from the beginning the data format to use. While it’s true that sometimes, the developer has its own technical format with its own proprietary rules, the government should have ensured that the data are also written in a standard accessible format.” (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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