NPC says privacy law does not hinder contact-tracing

By Raymond Carl Dela Cruz

August 11, 2020, 6:27 pm

MANILA – The National Privacy Commission (NPC) on Tuesday reiterated that the Data Privacy Act (DPA) does not serve as a stumbling block to contact-tracing efforts by local government units (LGU).

In a statement on Tuesday, NPC Commissioner Raymund Liboro said the DPA allows for the guidelines set by the Department of Health (DOH) that requires hospitals to collect information from coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) patients and to provide it to the necessary authorities.

“The DPA does not prevent hospitals from sharing a Covid-19 patient's data to proper authorities. The law recognizes the guidelines set by DOH on contact-tracing procedures,” Liboro said.

He noted the DPA must not be used as an excuse to withhold Covid-19 patient data, especially to contact tracers of LGUs.

According to DOH Memorandum 2020-0189, “health facilities, public and private shall cooperate fully with the DOH-Epidemiology Bureau and its regional and local counterparts by ensuring that Local Contact Tracing Teams are provided access to medical records.”

Liboro said the memorandum also requires hospitals to allow LGUs to conduct case interviews, further investigation, and other “contact tracing activities” in addition to medical records.

For LGUs, he said the training they provide to local contact tracing teams must also include the secure handling of personal data after collection.

Public exposure of Covid-19 cases, 'counterproductive'

Meanwhile, he said both the NPC and the DOH had advised against publicly naming patients of Covid-19 even for contact tracing efforts.

"Publicly naming an infected individual is equivalent to putting a person’s life at risk, given the physical assaults and discrimination which suspected or confirmed individuals had experienced,” Liboro said.

He added that publicly naming those found positive with Covid-19 would be counterproductive as those who experience symptoms may hide their condition for fear of possible harassment or humiliation.

“The policy is counterproductive, will not result to better contact tracing, and will put more lives of front-liners at risk," Liboro said. (PNA)