Privacy body probes pregnancy test policy of college

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The National Privacy Commission (NPC) has has asked officials of a Baguio City college to clarify its mandatory pregnancy testing of female students particularly its compliance with privacy laws.

In a letter to Pines City Colleges (PCC) President Rocio Prats-Baltao, Vice President Regina S. Prats and school physician Aurela Navarro dated 8 November, NPC Complaints and Investigation Division chief Atty. Francis Euston Acero invited the three to a meeting on 14 November at the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Field Office, Polo Field Road, Barangay St. Joseph Village, Baguio City to explain under oath PCC’s Memorandum dated 25 October 2018.

The said memorandum reminds deans and heads of PCC’s dentistry, nursing and pharmacy departments about the pregnancy test policy and instructs them to provide a list of all their female students to facilitate sample collection.

“Your institution’s Memorandum dated 25 October 2018 requiring mandatory pregnancy testing (and by necessary implication, access to the information derived therefrom) constitutes processing of sensitive personal information of your students. This Commission has a legal mandate to ensure that the data privacy rights of your students are protected,” said Acero in the summon letter.

PCC posted in its Facebook page on 6 November an explanation of the pregnancy test policy. It said the test was meant to protect the students and the policy was agreed upon during their enrollment in the school.

However, the commission said it wants clarification or confirmation that the school complies with the fundamental data privacy principles of transparency, legitimate purpose and proportionality in accordance with law.

NPC said that under the Data Privacy Act all personal information controllers such as the PCC must ensure all data collections are for specified and legitimate purposes only.

The processing of personal information about an individual’s health and sexual history, which are sensitive personal information, is prohibited unless specific conditions under the Data Privacy Act are met, Acero added.

“The failure to meet these conditions or the failure to adhere by fundamental data privacy principles may result in civil, administrative and criminal liability,” he warned.

The NPC official said failure to respond to the summon may prompt NPC to conduct a more comprehensive investigation that may result in civil, criminal and administrative penalties being meted out on PCC and its responsible officers.

Earlier, the Commission on Human Rights had said it would conduct an investigation into the pregnancy test policy of PCC.

Several lawmakers, youth and women’s group, have also called for the scrapping of the requirement, denouncing the tests as discriminatory and degrading. WJG/RP

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