The Philippines’ Commission on Elections (or ‘Comelec’) has clarified a false alarm about issues with its collection of voters’ biometric data. While there had been reports that Comelec had “lost” some of the data, agency spokesperson James Jimenez has now made clear that no data had been lost, but a small amount had been degraded.
Comelec has been stepping up its public campaign to collect voters’ biometric data – which includes face and fingerprint scans – ahead of the planned 2016 election, as it is now a requirement for voters. So when news leaked out that there had been problems in the process, it started to cause widespread concern. Fortunately, the issues actually revolved around relatively minor issues of data degradation – unclear photographs and scans, for example – that could easily be rectified; and it affected only 1,728 of the millions of individuals who had already registered. Those individuals have been contacted by Comelec directly to inform them of the problems, and invite them to re-register.
Still, some civil rights advocates in the country remain unassuaged. An attorney with the Legal Network for Truthful Elections is arguing that the affected voters shouldn’t be required to re-submit their biometric data, while the law school dean at Far Eastern University recently argued against the biometric requirement itself, suggesting it violated the country’s constitution. As this kind of voter registration system spreads around the world, similar concerns are likely to be echoed with it – though they seem unlikely to stop it outright, given how governments have been moving forward with it so far.
June 29, 2015 – by Alex Perala