Appointing a Data Protection Officer

Why appoint a DPO?

Appointing a Data Protection Officer (DPO) is a legal requirement for personal information controllers (PICs) and personal information processors (PIPs), under the Data Privacy Act of 2012. Apart from complying with the legal obligation, having a DPO will do your organization a lot of good. In this information age, where personal data serve as building blocks of any organization, assigning a focal person to ensure the protection of your personal data collection and processing is a must. A DPO increases your chance to remain competitive in the dynamic global landscape of data protection. At the same time, it improves your customer service and enhances your responsiveness to growing public awareness and regard for personal data protection.

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Should I assign a DPO?

You should assign a DPO if you are a natural or juridical person or any other body in the government or private sector engaged in the processing of personal data of individuals living within and outside the Philippines. An individual PIC or PIP shall be a de facto DPO.

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What should I look for in a DPO?

Your DPO should have expertise in relevant privacy or data protection policies and practices. He or she should have sufficient understanding of the processing operations being carried out by the PIC or PIP, including the latter’s information systems, data security and/or data protection needs. Knowledge by the DPO of the sector or field of the PIC or PIP, and the latter’s internal structure, policies, and processes is also useful.

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What is a COP?

A Compliance Officer for Privacy (COP) is an individual or individuals who perform some of the functions of a DPO in these cases:

  • Local Government Units (LGUs). Aside from having a DPO, a component city, municipality, or barangay can designate a COP, as long as the COP shall be under the supervision of the DPO.
  • Government Agencies. Aside from having a DPO, a government agency that has regional, provincial, district, city, municipal offices, or any other similar sub-units, may designate or appoint COP for each sub-unit. The COPs shall be under the supervision of the DPO.
  • Private Sector. Where a private entity has branches, sub-offices, or any other component units, it may also appoint or designate a COP for each component unit.
    Subject to the approval of the NPC, a group of related companies may appoint or designate the DPO of one of its members to be primarily accountable for ensuring the compliance of the entire group with all data protection policies. Where such common DPO is allowed by the NPC, the other members of the group must still have a COP, as defined in the Advisory.
  • Other Analogous Cases. PICs or PIPs that are under similar or analogous circumstances may also seek the approval of the NPC for the appointment or designation of a COP, in lieu of a DPO.
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What are my obligations as PIC or PIP, relative to the DPO or COP?

You should:

  • effectively communicate to your personnel, the designation of the DPO or COP and his or her functions;
  • allow the DPO or COP to be involved from the earliest stage possible in all issues relating to privacy and data protection;
  • provide sufficient time and resources (financial, infrastructure, equipment, training, and staff) necessary for the DPO or COP to keep himself or herself updated with the developments in data privacy and security and to carry out his or her tasks effectively and efficiently;
  • grant the DPO or COP appropriate access to the personal data it is processing, including the processing systems;
  • where applicable, invite the DPO or COP to participate in meetings of senior and middle management to represent the interest of privacy and data protection;
  • promptly consult the DPO or COP in the event of a personal data breach or security incident; and
  • ensure that the DPO or COP is made a part of all relevant working groups that deal with personal data processing activities conducted inside the organization, or with other organizations.
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Can I outsource or subcontract DPO functions, as a PIC or PIP?

Yes. You may outsource or subcontract the functions of its DPO or COP. However, to the extent possible, the DPO or COP must oversee the performance of his or her functions by the third-party service provider or providers. The DPO or COP shall also remain the contact person of the PIC or PIP vis-à-vis the NPC.

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I am a DPO. What can I expect?

You must be independent in the performance of your functions, and should be accorded a significant degree of autonomy by the PIC or PIP. You may perform (or be assigned to perform) other tasks or assume other functions that do not give rise to any conflict of interest.

Your PIC or PIP should not directly or indirectly penalize or dismiss you for performing your tasks. It is not necessary that the penalty is actually imposed or meted out. A mere threat is sufficient if it has the effect of impeding or preventing you from performing your tasks. However, nothing shall preclude the legitimate application of labor, administrative, civil or criminal laws against you, based on just or authorized grounds.

Your opinion as DPO or COP must be given due weight. In case of disagreement, and should the PIC or PIP choose not to follow the advice of the DPO or COP, it is recommended, as good practice, to document the reasons for such choice.

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What are my duties and responsibilities as DPO?

You shall, among others:

  1. monitor the PIC’s or PIP’s compliance with the DPA, its IRR, issuances by the NPC and other applicable laws and policies. You may:
    1. collect information to identify the processing operations, activities, measures, projects, programs, or systems of the PIC or PIP, and maintain a record thereof;
    2. analyze and check the compliance of processing activities, including the issuance of security clearances to and compliance by third-party service providers;
    3. inform, advise, and issue recommendations to the PIC or PIP;
    4. ascertain renewal of accreditations or certifications necessary to maintain the required standards in personal data processing; and
    5. advice the PIP or PIP as regards the necessity of executing a Data Sharing Agreement with third parties, and ensure its compliance with the law;
  2. ensure the conduct of Privacy Impact Assessments relative to activities, measures, projects, programs, or systems of the PIC or PIP;
  3. advise the PIC or PIP regarding complaints and/or the exercise by data subjects of their rights (e.g., requests for information, clarifications, rectification or deletion of personal data);
  4. ensure proper data breach and security incident management by the PIC or PIP, including the latter’s preparation and submission to the NPC of reports and other documentation concerning security incidents or data breaches within the prescribed period;
  5. inform and cultivate awareness on privacy and data protection within your organization, including all relevant laws, rules and regulations and issuances of the NPC;
  6. advocate for the development, review and/or revision of policies, guidelines, projects and/or programs of the PIC or PIP relating to privacy and data protection, by adopting a privacy by design approach;
  7. serve as the contact person of the PIC or PIP vis-à-vis data subjects, the NPC and other authorities in all matters concerning data privacy or security issues or concerns and the PIC or PIP;
  8. cooperate, coordinate and seek advice of the NPC regarding matters concerning data privacy and security; and
  9. perform other duties and tasks that may be assigned by the PIC or PIP that will further the interest of data privacy and security and uphold the rights of the data subjects.

Except for items (a) to (c), a COP shall perform all other functions of a DPO. Where appropriate, he or she shall also assist the supervising DPO in the performance of the latter’s functions.

You must have due regard for the risks associated with the processing operations of the PIC or PIP, considering the nature, scope, context and purposes of processing. Accordingly, he or she must prioritize his or her activities and focus his or her efforts on issues that present higher data protection risks.

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For the full DPO Guidelines, see: NPC Advisory No. 2017-01: Designation of Data Protection Officers