SIM card registration is a fascist attack on privacy rights, freedom of expression on pretext of fighting crime

This article is available in Pilipino

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) denounces the railroading of the SIM Card Registration Act that directly attacks privacy rights and freedom of expression on the pretext of fighting online trolling and criminal activities. The proposed bill, which is set to be signed by President Rodrigo Duterte, will require current and new subscribers of all forms of public telecommunication as well as social media platforms to register their real names using their identification cards.

The proposed law also requires telecom companies to store data and information about their users for 10-years from the time of deactivation of their mobile service or social media account.

This bill is a blatant attack of privacy rights. It will worsen the already gross invasion of privacy amid the collection of personal and meta data by big corporations and governments. We all know how vast quantities of information known as Big Data has been collected and misused by big companies and governments against ordinary people.

SIM card registration will effectively limit the people’s right to anonymity. Anonymity is a key component of the people’s freedom of expression and ensures the safety of people’s lives. Even press freedom largely depends on anonymity. Anonymity is a shield against tyranny and intolerance.

With the SIM card registration and the vast amounts of information that can be collected from cellphones, smartphones and internet-connected devices, the reactionary state and big corporations will have legal access to any individual’s personal life, revealing his communications and movements, as well as political, professional, religious, familial and sexual associations. Especially under a tyrannical ruler, requiring the registration of SIM cards will give the reactionary state the superfluous capacity to monitor ordinary people and journalists beyond any legitimate government interests.

By taking away all possible forms of anonymity, a cloud of fear will permanently hover above the people that will prevent them from freely expressing their opinion and engaging in public debate. The SIM card registration bill will surely stop people from expressing their legitimate grievances but who fear reprisals by abusive military and police officers, big bureaucrats, government officials and big corporations, and religious authorities.

A culture of fear and silence will surely result from the SIM card registration bill. There will be less reports of government corruption, police and military atrocities, violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, corporate abuses, environmental destruction and other wrongdoings and crimes by powerful entities. This is because people, including victims of abuse, will always think twice before reporting any malfeasance knowing that such information can be traced back to them and that they can be subjected to retribution.

Thus, the SIM card registration act is a fascist act and will further narrow the democratic space. In the face of red-tagging, terrorist-labelling and the prevailing culture of impunity of state forces that engage in armed intimidation, filing of trumped-up charges, imprisonment, abduction, torture and murder of critics, and patriotic and democratic forces, and combined with the “Anti-Terrorism Law”, the SIM card registration act will be an additional state terrorist menace against the people.

The pretext of fighting crime and trolls is a false basis. Instead of requiring secure methods of financial, legal or commercial transactions online, it resorts to wholesale trampling on privacy rights as a false solution to stopping fraud and crime. Instead of raising the capacity of law enforcers to conduct cyber-forensics to pinpoint culprits, it will require all people to allow themselves to be subjected to electronic search and investigation and surrender their privacy and anonymity rights.

Across the world, SIM card registration has failed to curb crime, but has instead exacerbated it. Organized crime, as well as state forces, have vast resources to easily circumvent SIM registration through SIM-cloning, using foreign SIM cards on roaming mode, or using satellite phones. Requiring SIM card registration has also spawned black markets for illicit SIM, as well as identity-theft.

Registration of SIM card was required in Mexico in 2009 but was repealed after three years after it was found to be ineffective in the prevention, investigation and prosecution of crimes. It has resulted in the emergence of black market of unregistered SIM cards and identity fraud in Pakistan.

The Filipino people must oppose SIM card registration. They must defend their privacy and anonymity rights and resist all government policies and measures that violate their democratic rights under the regime of state terrorism.

SIM card registration is a fascist attack on privacy rights, freedom of expression on pretext of fighting crime