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Vivares v. St. Theresa’s College

Closed Mixed Outcome

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Electronic / Internet-based Communication
  • Date of Decision
    September 29, 2014
  • Outcome
    Dismissed
  • Case Number
    G.R. No. 202666
  • Region & Country
    Philippines, Asia and Asia Pacific
  • Judicial Body
    Appellate Court
  • Type of Law
    Civil Law
  • Themes
    Privacy, Data Protection and Retention

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

The right to privacy is not violated when a third party downloads images from an individual’s Facebook page that are accessible by “friends” of the individual or by the public at large.


Facts

Minors Nenita Julia V. Daluz and Julienne Vida Suzara, along with several others, took pictures of themselves in their underwear, smoking cigarettes and drinking hard liquor. A third minor, Angela Tan, uploaded them onto Facebook. A computer teacher at minors’ school, Mylene Rheza T. Escuedro, discovered the pictures. The photos were reported to the Discipline in Charge and the girls were found to have violated the Student Handbook.

The students were sent to the Principal’s office where they were chastised and verbally abused. They were also banned from commencement. Angela’s mother filed a Petition for Injunction and Damages asking that the school be denied from prohibiting the girls from attending commencement. A TRO was granted allowing the girls to attend graduation and the Plaintiffs filed a writ of habeas data alleging an invasion of their children’s privacy by the Defendant.

The Regional Trial Court dismissed the petition for habeas data because “petitioners failed to prove the existence of an actual or threatened violation of the minors’ right to privacy.”


Decision Overview

The primary issue was “whether or not there was indeed an actual or threatened violation of the right to privacy in the life, liberty, or security of the minors involved in the case.” A writ of habeas data protects an individual’s right against invasion of informational privacy, and a nexus between the right to privacy and the right to life, liberty or security must be proven.

In this case, the core issue was the right to informational privacy, defined as “the right of individuals to control information about themselves.” To what extent should the right to privacy be protected in online social networks whose sole purpose is sharing information over the web? The petitioners argued that the privacy settings on Facebook limit who can see what information. This gives users a subjective expectation of privacy. The Court agreed. However, the Court also ruled that before one can have an expectation of privacy in her Facebook information, he or she must manifest an intention to keep that information private by utilizing privacy tools. If someone posts something on Facebook and does not limit who can see that information, there is no expectation of privacy. The photos in the case at hand were all viewable by the friends of the girls or by the general public. Therefore, the Court ruled that the Defendants did not violate the minors’ privacy rights by viewing and copying the pictures on the minors’ Facebook pages.


Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Mixed Outcome

This case provides a mixed outcome. It essentially states that there is little to no privacy right to information that is posted on the internet so long as an individual does not manifest an expectation of privacy by using some type of audience-restricting tool. This expands the broadcast of information on the Internet but limits causes of action for the right to privacy.

Global Perspective

Quick Info

Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Table of Authorities

Other national standards, law or jurisprudence

  • S. Afr., H v. W, Case No. 12/10142 (2013)

    “the law has to take into account the changing realities not only technologically but also socially or else it will lose all credibility in the eyes of the people.”

  • U.S., Romano v. Steelcase Inc., 907 N.Y.S. 2d 650 (N.Y. Sup. 2010)

    “in this [social networking] environment, privacy is no longer grounded in reasonable expectations, but rather in some theoretical protocol better known as wishful thinking.”

  • U.S., United States v. Maxwell, 45 M.J. 406 [C.A.A.F. 199]

    “The more open the method of transmission is, the less privacy one can reasonably expect. Messages sent to the public at large in the chat room or e-mail that is forwarded from correspondent to correspondent loses any semblance of privacy.”

Case Significance

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Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

The decision establishes a binding or persuasive precedent within its jurisdiction.

The decision was cited in:

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