Personal data of 55 million Filipinos, including their fingerprints, was recently hacked and posted online, but the international media don't seem concerned. All we hear is Putin, Cameron, Abitabh Bachchan and the juicy Panama Papers.
Does privacy of the masses matter and who is responsible for it? The leak of data from the Philippines Election Commission follows other large government leaks, from Turkish Residency Database to the US Office of Personnel Management files.
People's privacy seem to be of no concern
In March 2016, there was a massive breach in the database of the Philippines' Election Commission, resulting in personal data of 55 million Philippines' voters being posted online. This includes sensitive data like passport information and fingerprints.
The Philippines Government has played down the significance of the data breach and has said that it will not affect upcoming elections. The breach does put ordinary Filipinos at risk of identity theft and targeted phishing attacks.
The international media too had limited coverage of the breach, compared to the continuous updates on the leak of documents from Mossack Fonseca. The Panama papers have got higher attention because they involve the rich and the famous.
The Philippines Government enacted the Data Privacy Act in 2012. The DPA mandated the creation of a National Privacy Commission to administer and implement the law.
The Commission still hasn't been established, showing the lackadaisical attitude of the Government. The reaction of the government continues to underline the fact that failure to secure data is not looked upon as a crime.
How JP Morgan got away
When JP Morgan suffered a data breach in 2014, resulting in data of 76 million consumer households getting compromised, the Government investigated and charged 3 hackers for the crime. However, JP Morgan was not held accountable for failing to secure customer data.
Government apathy and increasing number of privacy breaches ignore the root of the problem - centralized trust.
We trust government organization to keep our records secure; we trust banks to keep confidential data secure. History has shown that these centralized organizations can fail.
Decentralization as an alternative
Bitcoin has demonstrated that cryptography and decentralization can provide a successful alternative to traditional methods of securing data.
Sensitive data may be secured using the blockchain and cryptography, with smart contracts used to execute transactions. Privacy controls implemented in smart contracts precisely specify who can view them.
Since users do not view data (unless authorized), but see only digital signatures validating the execution of transactions, the security of data associated with blockchain solutions is better.
Protecting privacy of the masses
Technology has brought sea changes in the lives of the masses.
Mobile phones, which were once used exclusively by rich businessmen, are now available to the common man at an affordable cost. The internet has enabled small scale businesses and has changed millions (if not billions) of lives. Blockchain could be the technology which takes data security to the masses.