Invasion of Privacy Law

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 What Is Invasion of Privacy?

Invasion of privacy is the unlawful intrusion into another person’s personal life without their consent. However, invasion of privacy is not a single tort; rather, it is composed of four discrete grounds of action.

States differ in their recognition of these causes of action as well as the elements required to prove them, so check your state’s invasion of privacy laws or consult with a lawyer before bringing legal action.

What Are Some Examples of Invasion Of Privacy?

When your reasonable expectation of privacy is broken, this becomes an invasion of privacy.

For example, if you are conducting a private telephone call in your home or office involving sensitive information and someone is listening in without your knowledge, agreement, or an applicable exception, this act constitutes an invasion of privacy.

However, unintentionally placing sensitive or personal material in a public place and another person picking it up does not constitute an invasion of privacy.

The following are some examples of invasions of privacy that can result in a legal action:

  • Intercepting calls illegally;
  • Snooping into someone’s private records
  • Taking images or films of someone without their knowledge or consent inside their home or a private location;
  • Unwanted phone calls; and
  • Making public a topic about another’s private life

When a well-regarded suburban school district decided to loan its pupils laptop computers for the whole school year, even allowing the students to take them home, it probably seemed like a terrific idea.

On the other hand, the pupils were unaware that the laptops were outfitted with internal anti-theft safeguards that allowed school district personnel to activate the webcams at any time without the user’s approval or knowledge.

The school system exploited this anti-theft feature to photograph thousands of its children studying, conversing with family members, and even sleeping.

Following the “Webcamgate” controversy, a Pennsylvania school system paid a six-figure sum to settle an invasion of privacy lawsuit filed against it.

While Webcamgate may have sounded far-fetched in the 1980s and 1990s, we should expect technology to continue challenging our right to privacy in the future, making knowing this right crucial.

The following are some examples of what is NOT an invasion of privacy:

  • Hearing a phone call while in a public area;
  • Reading a document left in a public place;
  • Photographing a person in public; and
  • Calling a person once or twice

Can I Sue for Invasion of Privacy?

You can sue if someone is invading your privacy.

Invasion of privacy allegations has been successfully litigated using civil law remedies.

Traditional privacy suits fall under four categories: disclosure, false light, intrusion, and appropriation.

Also known as “public disclosure of private facts,” this claim involves the widespread distribution of confidential information that a reasonable person would oppose being made public. Thus, disclosure entails facts that are both truthful and private.

Publicly available information is not private. The defendant’s right to free speech will be balanced against the plaintiff’s right to privacy by the court. The disclosure is free speech if the information is of legitimate public significance.

False Light
A false light suit entails the widespread transmission of an untruth about the plaintiff that is highly objectionable to the typical person.

Falsehood can include technically factual facts that are presented in an inaccurate manner. The alleged untruth casts the plaintiff in a “false light” in the public eye.

This sort of action is comparable to a defamation claim, but it is broader because the plaintiff does not need to demonstrate economic harm.

Suppose the topic was of serious public concern. In that case, the plaintiff must also establish malice – knowledge of untruth or reckless contempt for the truth – by the defendant in the interest of free expression.

Also known as “intrusion upon seclusion,” this claim entails entering or delving into the plaintiff’s solitude or affairs in a location where the plaintiff has a reasonable expectation of privacy and in a manner that would be highly offensive to the average person.

The defendant is not required to physically access the plaintiff’s property.

For example, taking pictures through a person’s bedroom window is an invasion of privacy since people have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their houses.

Appropriation is comparable to a right of publicity claim in that it involves the unlawful use of the plaintiff’s image or name for commercial gain. Appropriation claims are mainly limited to product and service promotions or advertisements. Even if they are primarily motivated by profit, newspapers and magazines are protected under a newsworthiness exception.

How Do I Prove Invasion Of Privacy?

The right to privacy is an essential and highly valued part of life in the United States. It creates the legal right to be left alone and to be free of outsiders’ meddling in things that are not their concern.

To establish that an invasion of privacy has occurred, the individual whose private concerns have been intruded upon must demonstrate that their private matters have been intruded upon, disclosed, published in a false light, or that their name has been utilized for personal advantages, such as in advertising.

Notably, if your name or image is used for commercial purposes without your permission, it may constitute an invasion of privacy and a copyright infringement. The most typical basis for suing for invasion of privacy is to prevent your name or likeness from being used without your permission.

The value of an individual’s reputation or talent is protected by filing a lawsuit for invasion of privacy through the use of a name or likeness.

The restrictions governing this type of usage of a resemblance or name are extremely strict.

Several cases have been filed over the use of an individual’s characteristics in which the defendants did not mention the plaintiff’s name or use an actual photo or drawing of them.

These cases are almost always unsuccessful. The courts regard only the purposeful use of a name or likeness to be actionable. The same is true when a name or photograph is mentioned. Their use is not considered an invasion of privacy if considered incidental.

An invasion of privacy requires not only the use of a specific name or likeness but also the ability of the plaintiff to demonstrate that its use was intentional, that it was intended to appropriate or leverage the value that the name or likeness bestows, and that the injured party did not provide permission for their name or likeness to be used.

They must also be able to demonstrate the damages they experienced as a result of the use of their name or likeness.

It is vital to highlight that the right to sue for invasion of privacy expires with the person whose privacy has been violated.

There are no uniform state invasion of privacy acts. However, the Privacy Act of 1974 defines a code of fair information practices that governs federal agencies’ collection, maintenance, use, and disclosure of information about persons stored in record systems.

A record system is a collection of records under the management of an agency from which information is obtained using the individual’s name or another identifier.

The Privacy Act compels agencies to provide notice of their record-keeping systems in the Federal Register.

The Privacy Act forbids the disclosure of a record about an individual from a system of records without the individual’s express authorization unless the disclosure falls under one of twelve statutory exceptions.

The Act also allows individuals to request access to and update their information and establishes numerous agency record-keeping standards.

What Remedies Are Available for Invasion of Privacy?

Monetary damages and, if the invasion is otherwise likely to continue, an injunction or restraining order are available remedies for a successful invasion of privacy lawsuit.

In an invasion of privacy proceeding, plaintiffs are not required to prove particular pecuniary loss; emotional hardship and mental agony are sufficient grounds for bringing a civil complaint.

What Are Some Defenses to Invasion of Privacy Claims?

Consent and privilege are the two main defenses to an invasion of privacy claim.

Consent means that the plaintiff granted the defendant permission to perform the act. A plaintiff, for example, may consent to be recorded or photographed. In certain states, the agreement must be in writing.

Consent is not a legitimate defense if the defendant’s actions went beyond the extent of the consent or if the defendant was misinformed about whether consent was provided.

As previously discussed, the defendant’s behavior is protected in allegations of false light and disclosure if the disclosure was of legitimate public significance. To be able to recover, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the revelation was false and that the defendant was either aware of its untruth or acted recklessly disregarding the truth; otherwise, the disclosure is privileged.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with an Invasion of Privacy Claim?

Privacy rules can be intricate and vary widely depending on the circumstances. If you are facing any legal concerns with your privacy rights, it is in your best interests to hire a government lawyer. Your attorney can advise you on your legal rights and assist you with research and representation at trial.

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