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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Election websites raise privacy concerns

If radio, TV, print and multimedia ads weren't enough, potential candidates for the 2010 elections are taking a page from US President Barack Obama's successful 2008 campaign and launching their own interactive websites.

Some of the politicians who have their own websites are Sen. Loren Legarda (, former president Joseph Estrada (, Sen. Francis Escudero (, Sen. Manuel Roxas ( and even Sen. Jamby Madrigal (

Two websites, however, are offering more than just information about the candidates.

The Akalamo website ( of Sen. Manny Villar is gaining a lot of hits after it offered to raffle off free cellphones.

To become eligible for the prize, one has to sign up their name, e-mail address and cellphone number. The sign-up page also indicates that the website owner can use the information and contact details.

The website also encourages users to post their photos online.

Another website maintained by Metro Manila Development Authority chairman Bayani Fernando is awash in the MMDA chief's favorite blue and pink colors.

It has an interactive game -- "Be The Chairman -- that allows users to solve various problems such as traffic and sidewalk obstructions. Each finished challenge awards users "pogi points" while animated photos of the MMDA chief congratulate you for a job well done.

At the end of the game, users are asked to submit their name, e-mail address and contact number to make their entry valid. Two users who get the highest points will get laptops worth P16,000 to P24,000.

Camille Madrigal, spokesperson of, said the prizes are meant to encourage users to become more active in the site. She said the user info will be used to send updates and invitations to events sponsored by

IT expert Jerry Liao, however, said the public should be careful about giving information online. He said the information could be used to build a database that would be used for spam e-mails and text.

"Pag nag-sign up ka at binigay mo e-mail add mo at cell number mo, kapareho na yun sa pagbigay sa kanila ng permission na padalahan ng mga campaign or promo messages. In essence they are building a massive database," he said.

The National Telecommunications Commission said the website promos are legal since the campaign period has yet to start.

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