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Invasion of Privacy

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.

 

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Invasion of privacy laws are usually broken into four separate categories including intrusion, appropriation, false light and public disclosure of embarrassing facts.

Invasion 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 The information gathered by this form of intrusion need not be published in order for an invasion of privacy claim to succeed.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.

Invasion 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 privacy rights.

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.

Invasion 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.

Invasion 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 


 

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