#LeyChavez: Peru's Chavez Law Could Endanger Email Privacy in the Workplace


Imagen de g4ll4is en flickr, usada con licencia Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Links in Spanish unless otherwise noted.

Does an employer have the right to look at his or her employees’ emails? This is not a rhetorical question, but rather a situation that is likely to become a reality in Peru if the Congress approves a ruling by the Commission on Labor and Social Security of the Congress of the Republic.

The bill included in the report, issued on Sept. 24, entitled “Act to regulate the use of information technology in public and private workplaces,” and stated that it seeks to “protect the constitutional rights of the worker referring to the privacy and confidentiality of communications”, in Article 3 mentions [es]:

Los medios informáticos en el centro de trabajo son de titularidad del empleador, independientemente de su asignación al trabajador y su uso no genera una expectativa razonable de privacidad o secreto.

Information technology in the workplace is the property of the employer, regardless of its allocation to the workers, and its use does not generate a reasonable expectation of privacy or confidentiality. 

Further on, Article 7 establishes:

En ningún caso las facultades de control y fiscalización del empleador suponen la interceptación o acceso a los correos electrónicos, redes sociales y demás medios informáticos de comunicación de titularidad del trabajador, bajo responsabilidad administrativa, civil y/o penal según corresponda; salvo que exista autorización escrita de este.

In no case do the powers of control and supervision of the employer involve interception or access to the email, social networks, or other information technology media belonging to the employee under administrative, civil, and/or criminal responsibility accordingly, unless written authorization  has been given. 

Erick Iriarte, a lawyer specializing in the use and regulation of the Internet, showed his concern over the aforementioned Article 3 contradicting Article 2, section 10 of the Constitution, which establishes confidentiality and inviolability of private communications and documents. He later adds:

El proyecto confunde el uso de herramientas informáticas con los contenidos que puedan circular por ellas, haciendo que los mecanismos de control sobre los primeros terminen afectando los segundos […]. No se puede por contrato ceder derechos y esto parece olvidarse la comisión con este dictamen, cuando plantea en el art. 7.1 que el trabajador puede por “autorización escrita” permitir la interceptación o acceso a correos electrónicos.

The bill confuses the use of IT tools with the content that can be circulated by them, making the control mechanisms over the former affect the latter […]. Rights cannot be assigned by hires, and the commission seems to have forgotten this with this report, when it states in Article 7.1 that the employee can permit the interception or access to email by “written authorization”.  

Aside from this, Iriarte also raises other unforeseen contexts: 

[El proyecto] Adicionalmente abre las puertas para situaciones que afectarán a cualquier persona aun cuando use sus propios instrumentos informáticos. Esto se entiende en el artículo 2, donde dice que la conexión a Internet también es considerada un instrumento. Es decir: ¿si llevo mi laptop y la conecto a la red del empleador, este puede monitorear mi propia computadora?

[The bill] additionally opens the door to situations that will affect any person even when using their own software tools. This is understood in Article 2, where it says that Internet connections are also considered instruments. That is, if I take my own laptop and connect it to my employer's network, can my computer be monitored? 

Nonetheless, Iriarte concludes that there are parts of the bill that would be beneficial: 

…de mantenerse este proyecto todos los emails de funcionarios públicos se volverían de libre acceso […]. Esto también incluiría todos los contenidos de comunicaciones de whatsapp realizadas en móviles (de acuerdo al artículo 2 del dictamen) aun siendo sus propios equipos (si utilizan la conexión a internet de la institución).

…by keeping this bill, all emails of public officials would become freely accessible […] This would also include all of the content in WhatsApp communications on mobile devices (according to Article 2 of the report) despite being their own devices (if they use the institution's Internet connection)

Blogger Julio Cruz Merino, also a lawyer, sees this bill as an attack on constitutional rights and liberties by legislators in the camp of Alberto Fujimori, Peru's former president who is now in prison for human rights violations committed under his administration. Martha Chávez, President of the Committee on Labor and Social Security, is part of this bloc. Also part of this group is Congressman Carlos Tubino, who presented one of the bills that the Committee took a stance on in the ruling:  

Para conocimiento general, el Ministerio de Justicia y el Tribunal Constitucional (Exp. N° 04224-2009-PA/TC) han indicado que otorgar esa potestad al empleador es incompatible con el derecho fundamental al secreto de las comunicaciones del trabajador. Por lo tanto, y si se usa la lógica, la razón y se aplica correctamente el derecho aunque sea por una vez en el Perú, el pleno del Congreso de la República debería rechazar de plano la pretensión de la bancada naranja.

For general knowledge, the Ministry of Justice and the Constitutional Court (Exp. N° 04224-2009-PA/TC) have indicated that granting this authority to the employer is incompatible with an employee's fundamental right to confidentiality of his or her communications. Therefore, if logic and reason are used and the law is applied correctly, even though it may happen only once in Peru, the Congress of the Republic should outright reject the claim of the orange bench.

While Congresswoman Martha Chávez is not the author of the bill, the initiative is known as the Chavez Bill (#LeyChavez [es]) in the Twitter world. Erick Iriarte put together a few of Chávez's tweets that defend the bill.

@MarthaChavezK36‘s arguments in defense of her Labor Privacy ruling (which can be called the #chavezlaw)

Although it is evident that the bill, as is, could serve as a basis for abuse on behalf of the employers, these abuses could also be produced on the employees’ end. Internet security specialist Dámasco Fonseca says:

Leaking info, commercial secrets, and more is what the the Labor Privacy ruling (poorly labeled the #ChavezLaw) is looking to stop

The only thing that should be demanded of the Labor Privacy Ruling (poorly labeled the #ChavezLaw) are clear regulations from the start and training in use 

Did you sign a document at work that says they will even look at your personal email? That ends with the #ChavezBill. ONLY CORPORATE EMAILS.

The discussion will continue, as it will be some time before the ruling will be seen in the Congress.

Post originally [es] published on the Globalizado blog.

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