Follow us for updates
© 2022
Read the Story →

In the Name of COVID, How Far Can Police Go in Checking Your Facebook?

What makes a good cop, bad cop online?
by Ara Eugenio
Sep 9, 2020
Photo/s: Jerome Ascano

The police spent this week scouring social media feeds for photos of people defying rules on face masks and quarantine parties, which have become more imperative as the Philippines wants to sustain the decline in new coronavirus infections.

How far can authorities go in the name of flattening the curve? Filipinos’ rights online are protected by the 2012 Data Privacy Act and its fundamental principles must prevail, said lawyer Jamael Jacob, Data Protection Officer at the Ateneo de Manila.

“Monitoring must be done in a lawful manner,” Jacob told reportr.

Police Checking Social Media for 'Hardheaded' COVID Lawbreakers
Can Police Be Trusted with Social Media Monitoring? Rights Lawyer Asks


Foremost, the police cannot hack into an individual’s private social media account while investigating alleged quarantine violations, he said.

Downloading and keeping photos, videos, and other information posted which are irrelevant to the case cannot be used to establish a person’s profile, or used as further evidence, he said.

Continue reading below ↓

When the collected data has served their purpose and there is no more legal basis to retain them, they must be disposed of, he said.

The police must also ensure the security of collected data. They are not allowed to publicize it for the purpose of generating media interest, he said.


Policing the wild world of cyberspace is also different compared to actual sleuthing on the ground that authorities are accustomed to, Jacob said.

Using online data as evidence can be tricky, considering how online identity is hard to confirm. One cannot automatically assume that an account belongs to a particular person, not to mention manipulated data or content that are rampant online, he said.

Hijacked accounts can also pose hurdles, he said. Early this year, the world’s largest social media expert investigated a barrage of fake or poser accounts.

The PNP’s own record of violating quarantine rules should also be addressed, he said. The “mañanita” or dawn birthday fete of the Metro Manila police chief, Major General Debold Sinas, became a rallying point for critics of the social media crackdown.

Continue reading below ↓
Recommended Videos

“They need to be able to show first that they can implement it as an impartial, objective agency. That means it should apply the same way to everyone—including their own people,” Jacob said.

Latest Headlines
Read Next
Recent News
An exhibit of paintings she received during the campaign.
With the reopening of several local destinations, this app has never been more timely.
He wins the World's Ugliest Dog Contest.
Third crown for the country in the pageant for trans women.
Some relief from rising prices.
The news. So what? Subscribe to the newsletter that explains what the news means for you.
The email address you entered is invalid.
Thank you for signing up to On Three, reportr's weekly newsletter delivered to your mailbox three times a week. Only the latest, most useful and most insightful reads.
By signing up to newsletter, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.