ADDRESSING THE GAPS on data protection and governance, San Beda University’s (SBU) conducted its first-ever Data Privacy Awareness Week, held last May 29 to June 2. The week-long event spearheaded by SBU’s Data Protection Officer (DPO) and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), Dr. Christian Bryan Bustamante, showcased a variety of activities empowering the Bedan community as stewards of data security.

With the theme “Empowering the Bedan Community as Stewards of Data Protection and Governance,” SBU took a proactive stance in educating and raising awareness on the data protection risks and rights of their students and staff members. 

Recognizing the relatively low awareness surrounding data privacy, the event primarily sought to involve the Bedan community in the conversation. According to Dean Bustamante, The first reason why we held that activity is that we wanted everyone in San Beda to be updated about the Data Privacy Act of 2012 which answers questions on what are our data privacy rights, how can we exercise these rights, and what are also the legal basis for the processing of our personal information.” 

Declaring his desire for active involvement from students, particularly student leaders, Dean Bustamante also expressed, “We also wanted that everyone will be active not only in implementing the law but in increasing the awareness of all members of the Bedan community on data privacy.” 
He also proposed the formation of a student organization dedicated to data privacy, suggesting names like “Bedan Data Privacy Champions” or “Bedan Data Privacy Advocates”. 

Dean Bustamante then highlighted that no system is immune to vulnerabilities, which is why regular assessments and the adoption of new systems are crucial for data protection. 

In light of the student portal hacking incident in 2020, where enrollment, grades, and personal data were compromised, the said event stands as another step forward in preventing similar incidents in the future. 

Though Dean Bustamante elaborated on the various efforts and measures the university took in light of the 2020 hacking he asked for it not to be published so as to not give any information that would compromise the safety of Bedans’ data. 

To culminate the week-long event, a Student Forum titled “Gen Z and Data Privacy: 30 ways to Love Yourself Online” was held on June 2 with Atty. Vida Zora G. Bocar, head of the Policy Review Division of the National Privacy Commission, as a keynote speaker.  

Atty. Bocar shared practical insights on data privacy, focusing on actionable steps to safeguard personal information and online presence. 

When asked about the level of participation and engagement from students and staff during Data Privacy Awareness Week, Dean Bustamante expressed his disappointment. 

He candidly mentioned that the turnout did not meet his expectations. Dean Bustamante asserted, “Ang mga tumatakbo ditong data sa steel cabinets namin saka sa computer systems ay sa inyo, so you must be aware pero, almost no one was there. If you’re asking me [If I was satisfied], No, I was not. Sayang yung preparation namin.” 

Despite inviting prominent individuals from the National Privacy Commission, only a few employees and students participated in the activities. 

Dean Bustamante highlighted the importance of awareness among students, as they are the ones immersed in online activities, extensively generating, sharing, and storing information.  

While expressing his dissatisfaction with the turnout, Dean Bustamante reached out to the Bedan Community, “Mas-madaling magnakaw ng data sa digital age. Aside from ensuring information security, isa sa mga dahilan kung bakit may data breach ay human error. We have to be aware of how we can protect ourselves.” 

Dean Bustamante conveyed that it is only through such efforts that we can strive to prevent infringements and ensure a secure and responsible digital environment for all. 

(with Rizian Veniz Balleta)

Photo by Phoebus Villanueva