Privacy body to continue with passport data breach probe despite DFA assurance

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 21) — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Monday maintained no passport data was stolen nor shared to any unauthorized person. Despite this, the National Privacy Commission still decided to push through with its full-blown investigation.

DFA, during its fact-finding meeting with security data experts, stood by its statement that passport data was preserved. This comes amid widespread criticisms about its own secretary's seemingly misinformed pronouncements.

"We assured the commission that measures are in place to protect the data of passport applicants. We took the opportunity to assure the commission that the passport data of the public is safe. We told them the DFA remains in full control and custody of passport data and that data has not been shared or accessed by an unauthorized party," DFA Assistant Secretary Elmer Cato said.

But NPC said it is taking DFA's report with a grain of salt.

"It will be a full-blown investigation to find out the issue at hand. We may be requiring other documents depending on the progress of the investigation, NPC lawyer Lorraine Anne Quibranza said.

Cato said they welcome the NPC's decision to continue the probe.

The NPC legal officer who faced members of the media said they have required the submission of documents from DFA and the contractor, Apo Production Unit Incorporated. The company's chairman, Michael Dalumpines, was also present during the meeting.

NPC also confirmed that the contract between Apo and its alleged subcontractor United Graphics Expression Corporation (UGEC) is also under scrutiny.

The commission refused to disclose further information, saying it does not want to preempt the investigation. NPC said it hopes to finish the probe within the year.