Academic journal article Defense Counsel Journal

Zones of Privacy: How Private?

Academic journal article Defense Counsel Journal

Zones of Privacy: How Private?

Article excerpt

"All the forces of a technological age... operate to narrow the area of privacy and facilitate intrusions into it. In modern terms, the capacity to maintain and support this enclave of private life marks the difference between a democratic and a totalitarian society." (1) 

LAW as a normative tool was invented to maintain order in society; laws, however, continually evolve to accommodate changing times and respond to society's needs. In the information age, ideas and news become accessible in an instant (2) Along with the ease of the flow of information, the system of connections and the collection of data have greatly improved, benefiting not only human relations, but the development of the economy as well.

Along with the upside, however, is the downside of these new technological advances--from the inconvenience caused by prank calls, to the more serious problems of harassment, scams, and acts of terror. Society must respond with measures deemed appropriate, reasonable, and efficacious, to keep abreast of technological progress.

This article discusses the constitutional and legal implications engendered by the collision between the right to individual privacy and the exercise of the state's police power pursuant to the demands of public interest and state security under Philippine law. We touch on the tension between privacy rights and public interest embedded in the various laws enacted to meet new threats, and elaborates on this tension as the courts balance competing interests in the following legislation: (a) Human Security Act of 2007, (3) (b) Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001, (4) (c) Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012, (5) (d) Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, (6) (e) Data Privacy Act of 2012, (7) (f) the proposed national centralized identification system, and (g) the proposed registration of prepaid mobile phones.

I. Right to Privacy Under Philippine Law: A Survey of Jurisprudence

The right to privacy means the "right to be let alone" (8) and is the "beginning of all freedoms." (9) Discussing the origin of the right to privacy, Pavesich v. New England Life Insurance Co. held that the right to privacy has its foundation in natural law and the instinct of nature. (10) In Philippine law, the concept of privacy is enshrined in the Constitution and is regarded as the right to be free from unwarranted exploitation of one's person or from intrusion into one's private activities in such a way as to cause humiliation to a person's ordinary sensibilities. (11) It has been described as the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men. (12)

A. Privacy--an Independent Right

In Morfe v. Mutuc, the Philippine Supreme Court affirmed that the right to privacy exists independently of its identification with liberty, and in itself fully deserving of constitutional protection. (13) Disini v. Secretary of Justice, (14) citing Sabio v. Gordon, (15) also recognized the importance of the different zones of privacy protected under Philippine law. This right could also be derived from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which mandates that "no one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy" and "everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks." (16)

The Philippine Constitution guarantees the right against unreasonable searches and seizure, as well as the right to privacy of communication and correspondence. (17) It expressly guarantees the right against self-incrimination, (18) liberty of abode, (19) right to due process, (20) and the right to and freedom of association. (21)

1. Situational, Informational, and Decisional Privacy

The concept of privacy has, through time, greatly evolved, with technological advancements playing an influential role. This evolution was briefly recounted in former Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno's speech, The Common Right to Privacy, where he explained the three strands of the right to privacy: (1) locational or situational privacy; (2) informational privacy; and (3) decisional privacy. …

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