Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The New Cybercrime Bills in the Philippines

There several versions of the new “Cybercrime” bill that will be tackled by Congress. The original bill that was proposed a few years back was slammed by a lot of tech bloggers, journalists, and industry experts. I skimmed through them briefly and at first glance almost all of them look exactly like carbon copies of one another. This makes you think if they just copy and paste this material from other bills filed in different countries. Anyway, I just wanted to give my two cents worth about the impact of these bills should they be passed.

Essence of the Bill
At the very core this bill just aims to punish two things. First is the unauthorized tampering and hacking of computer systems (includes websites, social networking accounts, online gaming accounts, e-mails, etc). Second is anything that has to do with promoting sex online (cybersex/child pornography).
This bill is a very welcome development especially for companies. Right now the only protection they have against employees who leak sensitive information is dismissal. With bills like this you can actually file charges against those who are proven to be behind the acts. This also goes the same with all individuals or groups who have been relentlessly hacking government and commercial websites in the last few years. This bill empowers the state and the citizen to face cybercrime incidents.
On a lighter note, people who love doing pranks on their officemates’ YM and Facebook statuses when they’re not on their desk should be wary of this bill. You can be charged for violating “Data Interference”.
For violations pertaining to the Cybersex section, this can be a lot more tricky because it involves moral judgement. There’s one clause there that says:
Establishing, maintaining, or controlling, directly or indirectly, any operation for sexual activity or arousal with the aid of or through the use of a computer system, for a favor or consideration.
Does this mean that FHM can be charged for cybersex? Or the adult community forums? Or how about the popular FAD blog which drew the ire of a lot of politicians when they posted the videos and pictures of local celebrity scandals? It will be very interesting to see how this particular clause of the bill will translate to actual charges filed in court. I’m all for a clean internet ecosystem but we have to admit that it will be really tough to pull off.
I actually find myself supporting this bill since the need for it is very urgent. I just hope that they iron it out more especially when it comes to implementation. The section on child pornography is long due given all the operations that were busted by local police forces. They just may want to drill down to the specifics to avoid confusion on different interpretations.
My biggest apprehension though is not really with the bill but with the government in general. I think I’ve lost so much faith in the system already. This bill proposes that we make ANOTHER government agency to focus on cybercrime prevention. That’s tax payers’ money that will pay for the salaries of all the employees. It just doesn’t feel right with all the corruption scandals being exposed lately.

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