PH watchdog suspends Grab’s selfie verification, in-vehicle recording

A government agency in the Philippines has ordered Grab’s local unit to suspend its selfie verification and in-vehicle audio and video recording systems.

The National Privacy Commission (NPC), which monitors compliance of the data protection law, said it found deficiencies in three Grab data processing systems that could compromise the privacy and rights of the riders.

“Grab PH did not sufficiently identify and assess the risks posed by the data processing systems to the rights and freedoms of data subjects. Only the risks faced by the company were taken into account,” NPC said in a Notice of Deficiencies issued to Grab Philippines last week.

Grab requires passenger verification via a selfie as a security measure. Otherwise, passengers need to provide their credit or debit card details to be verified.

Last month, the company also rolled out in-car audio and video recording for security purposes and dispute resolution.

However, NPC said Grab failed to notify its riders that photos, audios, and videos, which will be collected from the said measures, could be released to authorities upon request, should there be a dispute, conflict, or complaint.

The company also failed to mention its legal basis in processing the collected data, the privacy watchdog said.

“While this Commission believes that the security of passengers and drivers is a primordial concern, their privacy rights must not be disregarded. It must be protected with earnestness by ensuring that the purpose of data processing is clearly stated, the data flow is secured, and the risks are properly identified and mitigated,” the NPC said.

NPC has given Grab Philippines 15 days to comply with the remedial measures directed in the Notice of Deficiencies. However, the agency said the lifting of the suspension will be decided on a per-system basis.

In a statement, Grab Philippines said the new features follow the legal criteria for lawful processing of data.

“The passenger selfie feature and pilot study for in-car audio and video recording were introduced as pioneering safety technology features with the aim of further protecting our ride hailing community,” the company said.

As it recognises the mandate of the NPC to protect user privacy, Grab Philippines said passenger selfie feature and audio and video recording pilot have been temporarily suspended.

“We will fully cooperate with the NPC in providing necessary supporting documents to adhere to their standards, implement additional corrective measures, and ensure that NPC’s expectations and our approach for safety are mutually added,” it said.

The latest order from the NPC is just among the string of challenges faced by Grab in the Philippines. Recently, antitrust watchdog Philippine Competition Commission slapped fines amounting to 16.15 million pesos ($318,000) on the firm.

The company was earlier fined 11.3 million pesos in the first quarter, 7.1 million pesos in the second quarter, and 5.05 million pesos in the third quarter for violating its price and service quality commitments.

In July, the country’s transport regulator ordered Grab to justify its move to remove about 8,000 drivers from its platform due to lack of permit to operate.

Singapore Reporter/s

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Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.