Invasion of privacy is considered a violation
of tort law and can be litigated inside the civil courts for monetary
damages. On the books for over 100 years, invasion of privacy
has taken on even greater meaning with recent technological advances.
Invasion of privacy laws are usually broken
into four separate categories including intrusion, appropriation,
false light and public disclosure of embarrassing facts.
of Privacy - Intrusion of Solitude
Intrusion of solitude, seclusion or into private affairs is a
subset of invasion of privacy earmarked by some spying on or intruding
upon another person where that person has the expectation of privacy.
The place that the person will have an expectation of privacy
is usually in a home or business setting. People who are out in
a public place do not have the same expectation for privacy, according
to most state laws, than do people who are inside their own homes.
For instance, journalist, investigators, law enforcement and
others may not place wiretaps on a private individuals telephone
without his or her consent. However, law enforcement, may at times
circumvent this law by obtaining permission from the courts first.
In rare cases, law enforcement may even obtain permission after-the-fact
for the wiretaps.
Opening someone's mail is also considered to be intrusion of
solitude, seclusion or private affairs. The information gathered
by this form of intrusion need not be published in order for an
invasion of privacy claim to succeed. Trespass is closely related
to the intrusion tort and may be claimed simultaneously.
of Privacy - Appropriation of Name, Likeness or Identity
The appropriation of a private person's name, likeness or identity
by a person or company for commercial gain in prohibited under
the invasion of privacy laws. This law pertains to a private figure
and not a public figure or celebrity, who have fewer and different
This law was born from a couple of court decisions in the early
1900's where a private person's photograph was being used without
consent for advertising purposes and without the person receiving
any money for using their pictures in print. The courts recognized
the common law right to privacy including a person's identity
had been violated by the unauthorized commercial use. In later
cases, a person's voice was also included.
Public figures, especially politicians do not have the same right
to privacy in regards to appropriation of name, likeness or identity
since there is much less expectation of privacy for public figures.
Celebrities may sue for the appropriation of name, likeness or
identity not on grounds of invasion of privacy, but rather on
owning their own right to publicity and the monetary rewards (or
damages) that come from using their likeness.
of Privacy - False Light
The invasion of privacy tort of false light is upheld in court
when the plaintiff can prove that the defendant publicize the
plaintiff in such as way that it would be highly offensive to
a reasonable person. This tort shares many similarities with libel
and many courts have trouble separating the two. As in libel,
the best defense in a false light invasion of privacy case is
telling the truth. If the defendant made a highly offensive public
statement about the plaintiff that happened to be true, the there
is no false light claim.
Some high-interest supermarket tabloids have been successfully
sued for false light invasion of privacy claims. Printing a private
person's name or likeness in a way that is highly offensive and
untrue has opened up some of these papers to large damage awards.
of Privacy - Public Disclosure of Embarrassing Private Facts
Public disclosure of embarrassing private facts is an invasion
of privacy tort when the disclosure is so outrageous that it is
of no public concern and it outrages the public sense of decency.
In this invasion of privacy tort, the information may be truthful
and yet still be considered an invasion if it is not newsworthy,
the event took place in private and there was no consent to reveal
the information. Divorce situations and relationship breakups
may involve this kind of invasion of privacy tort.
Invasion of privacy became part of public consciousness when
Samuel D. Warren and Louis D. Brandeis wrote an article titled
"Right to Privacy" in the 1890 Harvard Law Review, which
is the basis for today's privacy laws. Also, see the
Privacy Act of 1974 for more information.