PNP reminded: Don't invade privacy when monitoring social media for quarantine enforcement
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PNP reminded: Don't invade privacy when monitoring social media for quarantine enforcement

Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - September 7, 2020 - 4:02pm

MANILA, Philippines — The national police should be judicious in its monitoring of social media and take into consideration the legal and data privacy implications of doing so, the National Privacy Commission said Monday. 

This comes after Joint Task Force COVID Shield, the quarantine enforcement body comprising the military and the PNP, said that it had directed police commanders to monitor social media for violations of health protocols. 

In a statement issued Monday afternoon, National Privacy Commissioner Raymund Liboro reminded the agency that any findings on social media should be acquired through legal means if it is to earn the respect of its users. He added that any enforcers doing so would have to be properly trained. 

"The plan by the Philippine National Police to scan social media for violators of quarantine protocols must recognize the data privacy rights of individuals. In keeping communities safe in this pandemic, leads and evidence gathered from social media and other digital tools to enforce the law must be legally obtained," Liboro said. 

"By monitoring social media, the police must use techniques that are not privacy intrusive. Law enforcers should be trained to use the medium effectively and reliably to build the confidence and trust of the public, especially netizens," he added.

In the past, the task force has already used "observations from social media" to justify its push for stricter enforcement which has seen police deployed in business districts, barangays, and transportation hubs over the past week.

Palace: Nothing wrong, illegal with PNP monitoring 

At a separate press briefing on Monday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said there is nothing in the country's laws that prohibits police surveillance of social media.

He argued that there was a waiver of privacy that was signed whenever a person posted something publicly on social media. 

“Our Cybercrime Act outlines what is prohibited, and it does not outlaw social media monitoring so there is nothing wrong with the police taking a look at what is posted on social media...So monitoring is not illegal. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in an online briefing.

"Well, the way I see it, when it comes to monitoring social media, you already posted so there is a waiver of privacy of sorts when [the content] is already posted on social media."

Among the punishable acts listed in the law are illegal access, illegal interception, and interference of data. 

Liboro for his part called on the national police to be transparent in its monitoring to ease any fears raised among Filipinos. 

"It is essential for the police to allay the fears of the community by explaining the measures they employ in enforcing quarantine rules and evaluating possible violators, how they observe the rights of the citizens, and how they mitigate the risks to individuals’ privacy," Liboro said. 

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