Miriam warns employers not to get social media passwords of their workers

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Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago on Wednesday, March 11, said employers are violating constitutional provisions on privacy when they access their workers’ personal social media accounts.

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago
Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago

Santiago, a constitutional expert, filed Senate Bill No. 2681, which seeks to bar employers from compelling employees or even applicants to divulge their passwords for online accounts such as Facebook and Twitter.

She cited the Constitution, Article 3, Section 3, which provides: “The privacy of communication and correspondence shall be inviolable except upon lawful order of the court, or when public safety or order requires otherwise, as prescribed by law.”

The senator said that because of electronic media technology, this constitutional protection is no longer limited to personal information and property in physical form, but extends even to online accounts.

“Most people have social media accounts for sharing personal insights and storing personal information. They deserve the same statutory protection against invasion and abuse of their privacy on the internet and social media,” Santiago said.

The bill, if enacted, applies to all online accounts which allow users to create, share, and view user-generated content, including photos, blogs, videos, audio recordings, instant messages, electronic mail, or other information.

“One way that privacy may be invaded is when employers compel employees or applicants for employment to divulge passwords to their accounts for whatever purpose. This is an invasion of privacy and must be prohibited,” she added.

Under Santiago’s proposed law, employers cannot:

(1) Require or request employees or applicants to disclose passwords or other credentials that may be used to access their online accounts;

(2) Compel employees or applicants to add the employer or an employment agency to their list of contacts associated with a social media website; and

(3) Compel employees or applicants to access a personal social media account in the presence of the employer, so that the employer may view the contents of the personal social media account.

Employees who refuse to grant access to their personal accounts shall also not be punished for protecting their own privacy. The bill also ensures that granting of access to personal accounts will not be part of hiring requirements.

Santiago is considered the most popular senator on social media. As of press time, she has some 2.6 million fans on her official Facebook page, some 1.3 million followers on Twitter, and 10,000 followers on her recently launched Instagram account.

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