Cellphone Numbers: Are They Personal Information or not?

Considered as a personal necessity, people nowadays cannot live a comfort life without cell phones and laptop computers. Some even chose to sustain the fast phased innovations in communication by purchasing updated communication gadgets rather than investing to some other valuable things. Worst, some Filipinos tend to buy cell phone load instead of a kilo of rice. In school, children have their own cell phones although some school administrations prohibit them from bringing one inside the campus. Young professionals carry with them high end cell phones equipped with internet connection and sophisticated features like camera, GPS, video and mp3 players. Various cell phone units are available in the market from analogue, android phones to i-phones.

Like cars, the technology is constantly changing and every year, there are new models that come out in the market. Thus, it easily depreciates. Yet, people continue to patronize it. Since technology becomes part of our daily lives that many people become so dependent on these gadgets, inevitable happens that personal information are exposed to the public. Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites are just some of the websites where people are more than willing to post their personal information. Worst, everything is free in the web like calls, SMS, audio messages and videos and all information are easily accessible through Yahoo, Wikipedia and Google and other search engines. As mankind embraces the virtual world of cyberspace and communication technology, people have to take some precautionary measures to deal with the negative effects of these electronic gadgets with respect to individuals’ private lives. Unlike before, the world has now become more compressed. By a single click of a button on a mobile phone, a person can talk or send an SMS (short messaging system) around the globe. This kind of technology has caused the world to come closer and become smaller, various harmful effects have been known to mankind largely attributed to these modern day equipment. As cyberspace and computer technology continue to impinge our lives, the time has come to exhaust all means to protect our private lives. Confidential matters pertaining to our families, careers, and individual personal information should be protected. On using our mobile phones, we must take steps to avoid being tracked down of our location and conversation over the mobile phone. This holds true as various modes of spying conversations with your mobile phone are available in the internet. Surprisingly, you don’t need to know electronics to do this. Just some gadgets that you already have will do it for you. All you need is a mobile phone and a headset that works with your phone. In an article published in the net entitled “Spy on Conversation with your Mobile Phone” by Arun Basil Lal, he outlined the steps to own your spy gadget. Plug the head set into the jack; In the settings for the enhancement, select the enhancement in use as headset and enable automatic answer so that incoming calls are automatically answered; Set the ringing volume to zero and the vibrating alert off so that the phone do not make any notification when a new call comes in; Make sure that the phone is always quiet. Now, to hear the conversations secretly, hide the phone somewhere in the room. The microphone of the headset has to be kept at a place where it won’t be noticed but can catch voice signals.

Inside pots, below sofas and behind curtains are some areas that you can try. Remember to completely hide the phone from view so that no one would know when a new call comes in. Call your hidden phone from some another phone. As a hidden phone is set to automatically answer, it will be picked up automatically and you can listen to the conversation.

In an article published by Warren Riddle entitled “Easy ways to tell if your cell phone is bugged”, one should watch out for significant, unexplained drops in battery power or random screen flashes and strange billing activity and text messages with random numbers and symbols. This can be avoided if you lock phones with a password and pop out your phone battery when you go meet someone with a briefcase chained to his or her wrist.

So, the question would be, is it still safe to call someone now without being heard by a stranger? Or better yet, will this kind of stealthy method letting anyone easily access your confidential personal information without your consent a harsh consequence of innovative communication technology? The fear would always be there. This is the reason, maybe, why some people are very careful and apprehensive from giving their mobile phone numbers to others.

COURTESY REQUIRES

I got a chance to have a chat with my brother-in-law, Wilmore, whose family is having a short vacation in the Philippines from Los Angeles, California. I asked him what his views are on letting someone share his mobile phone number to others without his consent. He said, in California they always follow a very strict protocol in sharing one’s mobile phone number. Courtesy dictates, he stressed, that if a third person asks his mobile number from a friend, the latter should not give the number to the former without his consent. Instead, that third person should be the one to give his number and let his friend find a way either send a short message service or call him about such inquiries. This, according to him, would avoid possible decoding digital transmission or encryption of his mobile phone especially when inquired by a stranger that opens a risk to furtive access to all of his personal information as personal mobile phone numbers are part of personal information among Americans.

ASCERTAIN THE PURPOSE

While having a commercial break in my daily news program over DZAR 1026 khz AM Radio, I got a chance to ask my co-anchor, Errol Dacame, on his views on this particular issue. He said, that if the purpose is purely business, then one can have his business mobile phone number shared to someone without his consent But, if it is purely personal, then it is restricted only to members of his family and closest friends.

Hence, his consent must first be acquired if somebody asks his number from any members of his family or among his closest friends. That is the reason, he said, why he maintains two sets of mobile phones, one which is purely for business while the other is for private personal use. He has a point though as inevitable happens to a broadcast journalist like him whose means of livelihood is always associated with risks and threats.

BREAKING CODES

Working as the Head of Information Technology in an airport in the United States, Wilmore pointed that, secret codes of every invention have their own corresponding decoders like antidotes to different kinds of poisons. He explained that no matter how secured a stored information are inside a mobile phone or computer can always be opened. Inventions, he said, are coupled with decoding schemes to be used during emergencies.

PERSONAL INFORMATION

We buy cell phones and subscribe to available networks in the market in order for us to be accessible anytime. That is the reason why mobile phones are introduced vis-à-vis the analogue way instead of relying on land line telephones. So, as you embrace this kind of technology, be ready to clinch the danger of unleashing your secrets. Regardless of how secure a system is, it can always be accessed both physically by secretly setting up a bugging software inside a mobile phone or through signal interventions. Ordinarily, this kind of intelligence gathering oftentimes featured on action-packed films like “James Bond” or Tom Cruise` “Mission Impossible”. Once you share your cell phone number to someone, inevitable occurs that you are prone to exposing your privacies to others. Under our laws, we are protected. But, can you sue someone who gets access to your mobile phone without your consent? An exception can be on emergency situations wherein an anonymous call is received due to urgency.

Most of the time, we give our mobile numbers to employers and share them online when we post our employment details to inform our employers in case of emergency situations. This gives them convenience in reaching out to us directly when there are urgent matters or emergency situations. In these unfortunate events, it doesn’t matter who calls us or how they got our numbers, what’s important is we are informed right away of the emergency so that we may address it immediately. Mobile numbers give everybody, a chance to reach us on times that we urgently need to be informed. We also have to accept the fact that when we give our numbers to people or post in online, these numbers are easily accessed and relayed to others even without our consent. A stranger who googles our employment details online would be able to get our mobile numbers easily. Say in applying for a job, recruitment agencies refers our information, including our mobile numbers to different clients and companies. A person who is looking for a job would not mind receiving an anonymous call from a company for interview or assessment, as long as it gives him the opportunity to have a job and to earn.

Republic Act no. 10173 lays down pertinent provisions to protect individual personal information systems both in the government and the private sector. It is clear in Section 12 paragraph of the law that processing of personal information shall only be permitted when the subject has given his or her consent. The processing is also necessary for the purpose of legitimate interests pursued by the personal information controller of third party or parties to whom the data is disclosed, except where such interests are overridden by fundamental rights and freedoms of the data subject which require protection under Philippine Constitution. The special law also recognizes the power of the press to protect their sources of information. Be that as it may, personal information should be construed as confidential in nature. That not even a trace could be seen to possibly unfold the confidentiality of it. Once you get hold of your cell phone, colossal chances are inexorable that your mobile phone numbers can be exposed to the public. This is why mobile phone numbers are not part of the individual confidential personal information but merely a form of information which is readily accessible to the public.

IDENTIFY YOURSELF

Like I said, inevitable happens. It is unavoidable that someone can get hold of your number through others without your consent. So, for me, it is not a big deal. Suing someone relevant on this particular case for violation of the law against privacy is overplayed and exaggerated. But, again, courtesy should be followed so as not to offend the party or the data subject to be called. Why not send first a short message, write down your name and your purpose, before making a call. Or better yet, wait for the receiver’s reply either in a form of text message or a call. If you get his nod then that is the right time to make a call. This serves as a gesture that he is willing to talk to you over the phone. In this sense, effective communication approach is civilly applied.

NOT A BIG DEAL!

It is a personal choice whether to give or not to give your mobile phone number to others. Once you give it, chances are, it will be shared to other people without your consent. If you treat your mobile phone number as a personal information, then better not to keep or own one. Classified information can be declassified as long as there are systems available to open different kinds of electronic data messages, documents and any other procedure related to recording, transmission or storage of electronic data, message and conversations in the information and communication system. If no consent has been given from the data subject, then this would clearly violates sub section (b) of section 3 of the RA 10173 which says that in order to freely collect and process of informal information relating to her or him, consent from the latter must be freely given, specific, informed indication of will. But, since, generally, I consider mobile phone numbers as information ready to the public, consent of the data subject may be dispensed with. Except those people who keep a very restricted personal mobile phone number exclusively for personal use.

A closer scrutiny of the law, the act does not apply to the title, business address and office telephone number of the individual. Personal information processed for journalistic, artistic, literary or research purpose and other information outlined in the exceptions under Section 4 of RA 10173. This kind of personal information could include your mobile phone numbers. Clearly said, mobile phone numbers can be construed as general information. It really depends on how a person prudent enough to keep his or her personal mobile phone numbers confidential to others. It would be better to keep several mobile phones with different mobile phone numbers and keep a post paid mobile phone number exclusively for personal use as communication networks are very strict on maintaining confidential information to their valued subscribers. Share the pre-paid mobile numbers for business purposes as it can always be replaced anytime at your own discretion. Again, be wary of sharing your personal post paid number because once you share it chances are so big that this would easily be circulated to the public without your knowledge.

BACK TO BASICS

I always thought of those good days way back when technology is not that so far above the ground. Those were the times when we hardly see people peeping on their laptop computers and or flicking on their mobile phones. Life was just so simple that one can freely roam around without getting paranoid feared of being captured by mobile phone cameras in public places. We saw children playing in the streets instead of playing videogames and surfing the net over their portable computers. We used to line up inside PLDT offices to make an overseas call or experienced being annoyed by party lines on land line telephones at home. Or, felt amused while sending telegrams to our parents when times we are in dire need of our monthly school allowances or experienced that trendy feeling of flaunting pocket size beepers or easy call messaging gadgets. Today, everything of these activities can be found in your cell phones. As world super powers continue to develop state of the art armaments and weaponries, anything could happen in this world within just a single click of a button. Our air waves seem to be flooded with ciphers that make planet earth on risk of dilapidation. They are the smart guys exploiting the greatest talent that mankind has received keeping classified information through information and communication system that, alarmingly, could put peoples` lives at risk. We heard about cyber war and in deed, it is phenomenally happening. When it comes down to the fast paced world of technology some of us may find it hard to keep up with much less comprehend all of the advancements that are happening all the time. There is constantly news being posted about potential improvements to the way we make use of certain technologies and even improvements to the technology itself, you may not understand all of the wording they use when explaining or something may just be fuzzy on what they mean by something luckily for you. Well, that is the price of too much intelligence that God bequest to mankind. A kind of gift that expects nothing but greed, power and self serving innovation created to endanger human dignity, self respect and destroy individuals` rights. Worst, it would possibly lead to end human race. This innovation turns our world so small that, someday, would make planet Earth a very dangerous place to live in.

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