IN THE past couple of weeks, many of you may have received a text message saying, "Dear Sir/Madam, I am a project manager. We are hiring part-time/full-time jobs. Now, you can earn 1,000-10,000 PHP per day."

Another message you may have received states "Dear, I am a human resources manager. You have been selected for a full-time job. Now you can reach 800-10000/day." At the end of each message is a suspicious WhatsApp link.

While text spams are nothing new, the amount we have been receiving these past few days is both odd and alarming.

Odd because we suddenly receive similar text messages in a short span of days.

It is alarming because the only possible explanation why we are receiving text spam regularly right now is someone or some group of people may have leaked our mobile phone numbers.

Several netizens have shared online that this could be a result of the contact tracing measures. Some suspected that mobile numbers given for contact tracing may have been leaked.

If you can recall, at the height of the Covid-19 last year, we have to write down our mobile numbers on logbooks or health declaration forms for contact tracing purposes. Understanding the importance of contact tracing, many of us have written in these forms or logbooks. Each time we write down our contact details, we were hoping that these will not be used for purposes other than contact tracing.

The Data Privacy Act of 2012 penalizes individuals or institutions that have disclosed sensitive information to a third party. This is all listed under Chapter 8.

Section 20 of the law states that individuals who are handling personal information "must implement reasonable and appropriate organizational, physical and technical measures intended for the protection of personal information against any accidental or unlawful destruction, alteration and disclosure, as well as against any other unlawful processing."

Currently, the national government has not released any statement or comment on the matter.

Roren Chin, chief of National Privacy Commission’s (NPC) public information and assistance division, said in an Interaksyon report that they are looking into the incident but information on the incident is "insufficient."

“We are looking at these reports but no sufficient information, at this time, to attribute or link the growing concerns on unsolicited SMS to scraping or breach of contact tracing forms/apps. We are also conducting privacy sweeps to check the compliance to DPA requirements,” Chin was quoted saying in the Interaksyon report that was published on November 19, 2021.

Meanwhile, the law penalizes those who send spam messages.

Under Section 4(c)(3) of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, "Unsolicited Commercial Communications" are considered cybercrime offenses. The law defines unsolicited commercial communications as "The transmission of commercial electronic communication with the use of computer system which seek to advertise, sell, or offer for sale products and services."

Under Section 8, those who violate Section 4(c)(3) "shall be punished with imprisonment of arresto mayor or a fine of at least P50,000 but not exceeding P250,000 or both.

May we remind persons and institutions collecting our personal information to take care of the information we give them. These are vital information that could put some individuals at risk or taken advantage of.

We also call on the government to look into this as they were the ones who pushed for the sharing of our information, through various policies, for the purpose of contact tracing. Filipinos shared their personal information knowing its importance in the efforts of managing Covid-19 cases. But at the same time, they also hoped that the information they gave was to be only used for its intended purpose and not for others.