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Invasion of Privacy Laws

All individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy. They rightfully expect to have control over their personal media and beliefs. That includes private conversations, conduct, and confidential information. There is a general desire not to have personal information revealed to the public. After all, our personal lives are usually not of public concern, nor is it fair for anyone to make commercial use of them.

Today's technological landscape promotes the rapid spread of information on social media. Private affairs can get leaked online, ruining a person's privacy in minutes. As a result, it's important to know about invasion of privacy laws and how to assert your rights in the event of a violation.

A cause of action (claim) may be available if you suspect someone invaded your privacy. You or your family members may be able to bring an invasion of privacy lawsuit if someone compromised your private information or privacy.

Below, you'll find information about each type of invasion of privacy claim:

You can also learn more about invasion of privacy personal injury claims by visiting our pages on:

Appropriation of Name or Likeness

You may have a misappropriation claim if a person or entity has used your name or likeness. In some states, appropriation extends to the unpermitted use of your:

  • Voice
  • Portrait
  • Signature
  • Photograph

If someone were to benefit from these qualities, you may have a legitimate claim for appropriation of name or likeness.

To succeed in an appropriation claim, you must prove the following elements:

  • You did not grant consent for the use of your identity.
  • The defendant's use of your identity brought them an immediate, direct benefit. Whether the benefit derived can be noncommercial depends on the controlling state law. Some states require that the benefit be related to commercial purposes.
  • The aspect of identity that was appropriated (such as a person's name) is protected under the law. State law controls, so any statutory and case law differences between states will affect your potential claim.

Public Disclosure of Private Facts

You have a right to secrecy over the details of your private life. Suppose someone comes to learn something about you that is not generally known. If the person then discloses the fact to the public, you may have an invasion of privacy claim for the public disclosure of private facts. Some states' invasion of privacy laws -- such as New York -- do not recognize this cause of action. You must further assess the applicable state law if you believe someone violated your rights in this manner.

To succeed in a public disclosure claim, you must prove the following elements:

  • The disclosed fact was not generally known to the public before disclosure.
  • There was a public disclosure. Generally, the disclosure must be made to enough people that it is reasonably likely that the fact will inevitably become public knowledge.
  • The disclosure would be offensive to a reasonable person of ordinary sensibilities. This does not account for specific sensitivities. In other words, a thin-skinned person cannot bring a claim for a disclosure that wouldn't be offensive to the average person. Generally, sexual disclosures are considered inherently offensive, whereas the offensiveness of other disclosures depends on the context.

Again, for invasion of privacy, state law controls, and there are significant differences between the invasion of privacy laws of different states. Some states may require that the plaintiff prove additional elements, such as the defendant's reckless disregard. The applicable law will determine the strength and scope of your claim.

False Light

You also have the right not to have information about you disclosed so that it misleads the public, thus portraying you in a false light. Unlike a defamation cause of action, where the plaintiff cannot succeed if the disclosed information is true, the plaintiff in a false light cause of action can sue over truthful disclosed information. This is true so long as that information is disclosed in such a way as to be misleading to the public.

To succeed in suing for a false light claim, you must prove the following elements:

  • There must have been a public disclosure of information.
  • The disclosure must portray you (the plaintiff) in a false or misleading light.
  • The disclosure must be highly offensive or embarrassing to a reasonable person of ordinary sensibilities.
  • The disclosure must have been made with reckless disregard for its offensiveness or embarrassing nature.

Whether these elements have been met will depend on the context of the case. As an example of what might constitute a false light claim, consider the possibility of a newspaper printing your photograph next to an article about a criminal committing various heinous acts. Perhaps the photograph and article are structured so that a reasonable person would associate the photograph with the article's content. These circumstances would likely give rise to a false light claim.

Intrusion of Solitude

This is also known as an intrusion upon seclusion legal action. You have a right not to have your seclusion -- your physical or visible privacy -- intruded upon by another without permission. A claim for intrusion of solitude usually comes into play against peeping toms, stalkers, and people snooping through your private records. It can also extend to telephone calls and people engaging in phone call harassment.

To succeed in an intrusion claim, you must prove the following elements:

  • The defendant must have intentionally intruded upon your solitude or seclusion. Or, they must have barged into your private affairs. An intrusion may be physical or nonphysical. (For example, using long-range camera equipment, binoculars, or electronic intrusions.)
  • The intrusion must be highly offensive to a reasonable person. This is very context-sensitive, which means it comes down to the unique circumstances of a case. But matters of public interest are not highly offensive to a reasonable person.

Get Your Invasion of Privacy Questions Answered

Invasion of privacy laws may seem complicated, but if you think you have a valid claim, why not learn more? You can find out about the laws in your state and even the viability of your claim by speaking with a local defamation lawyer. This kind of personal injury attorney will know about possible disclaimers, claims, and defenses relevant to your case.

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