Chats and photos on Facebook Messenger can be used as evidence, the Philippines' Supreme Court said in a precedent-setting ruling on crimes committed through one of the world's most widely-used messaging apps.
Defendants in criminal cases cannot invoke privacy when the information from chat apps was obtained by private individuals who also have access to the chat, the high tribunal said. The right to privacy is intended to protect citizens from "government intrusions," it added.
Police have in recent years busted money scams and prostituion rings that use chat apps such as Messenger to dupe their victims.
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In the precedent-setting ruling, the Supreme Court denied a 24-year-old man's petition to stop the use of his private chats with an underage girl as evidence in his child pornography case.
The girl, according to the Supreme Court, was coaxed by the man to send him photos of her private parts via Facebook Messenger.
The minor chats with the man using a borrowed phone from her mother and the mother found out about their relationship when the daughter forgot to log out, the court said.
While the daughter removed the photos from her own account, her mother asked her to download photos using the man's account, which she had access to.
The Supreme Court further argued on the use of the chats since the crime is inherently immoral or mala in se, versus mala prohibita or illegal just because the law says so.