Invasion of Privacy
There are a number of laws prohibiting an invasion of privacy. This means that it is illegal for others to pry into private matters and to publicly spread information about private matters. The right against the invasion of privacy has many stipulations and exceptions. In this article, we will discuss what an invasion of privacy is and what you can do if someone invades your right to privacy.
What Is an Invasion of Privacy
The law protects people from an invasion of privacy from the government interfering in personal matters and decisions. It also protects against invasion of privacy from the public and allows people to file civil lawsuits for any invasion of privacy matters.
These laws give citizens the following rights:
- To be free from unwanted publicity
- To not have their image, name, or personality exploited for commercial purposes without consent
- The right to not have private matters publicized
- The right against intrusion into private matters in order to cause embarrassment or harm
The remedy to these types of invasion of privacy is a civil lawsuit to claim damages and ask for an injunction.
What Does the Constitution Say About Invasion of Privacy?
The constitution protects US citizens’ right to privacy. This includes the right to keep personal matters private and the right to make certain decisions for oneself, free of outside influence.
What Happens If I Suffer an Invasion of Privacy?
The law defines an invasion of privacy as a revelation of or intrusion upon private matters. This includes intentional intrusion upon solitude or intruding upon the decision-making process of private matters. If you suffer an invasion of privacy, then you can file a lawsuit against the intruding party.
The law protects from the following four types of invasion of privacy
- Unreasonable intrusion on someone’s solitude or seclusion
- Using someone’s name or image without permission
- Disclosing private facts or otherwise showing someone’s private life
- Painting the victim in a false light and broadcasting that to the public
All of the four types of invasion of privacy gives the intruding party liability for the harm done to the victim. For the victim to file a civil lawsuit, the invasion of privacy must be intentional, and the information gained or publicized must not have been already publicized by the plaintiff. We will examine these four types of invasion of privacy in greater detail below.
Invasion of Privacy: Unreasonable Intrusion on Someone’s Solitude or Seclusion
This type of invasion of privacy is someone intruding into someone’s privacy or private matters in a way that would be outrageous or offensive to a reasonable person. The plaintiff would need to prove that the invasion of privacy would offend a reasonable person in order to be successful with their case.
Invasion of Privacy Lawsuit
The plaintiff must prove the following things in an invasion of privacy lawsuit for intrusion on their solitude or private matters:
- The intrusion was unwelcome
- The intrusion was intentional on the part of the intruder
- The intrusion was insulting and substantial to a reasonable person
- Proof of mental suffering, humiliation, embarrassment, or shame from the intrusion
Invasion of Privacy: Using Someone’s Name Without Permission
Using someone’s name or image without permission is an automatic invasion of privacy, especially for commercial purposes. This is one of the most common invasions of privacy, with weight loss companies using pictures of people without permission to advertise their products. The law cracks down on these cases to help protect reputations from association with companies. In order to file a lawsuit for this type of invasion of privacy, the plaintiff’s name or image has to be used. Hints of the plaintiff cannot constitute an invasion of privacy. This may cross over with copyright, though.
Invasion of Privacy Lawsuit
The plaintiff must prove the following things in an invasion of privacy lawsuit:
- The plaintiff’s name or image was used for commercial purposes
- The plaintiff did not give their permission for this use
- The use harmed or injured the plaintiff in some way
Invasion of Privacy: Disclosing Private Facts or Otherwise Showing Someone’s Private Life
A civil lawsuit for this type of invasion of privacy must prove that the private matter that was shared is not a matter for the public and would offend a reasonable person. This may be information about the plaintiff’s sex life or extremely private matters like health information. The plaintiff must prove the following three things:
- The matter is private and not information that is available to the public
- The matter was made public, and many people learned of it
- A reasonable person would find the information to be objectionable or offensive (taking into account cultural and societal norms)
It is important to note that certain matters are not protected by privacy laws. These are generally matters of public interest or information that is readily available to the public. For example, weddings, funerals, divorces, etc. are matters of public interest and not considered private information. The press can report these without it being an invasion of privacy.
Invasion of Privacy: Painting the Victim In a False Light and Broadcasting That To the Public
Unlike defamation of character, the information shared with the public may have been true, but it was twisted to paint the plaintiff in a false light. To claim this type of invasion of privacy, the plaintiff must prove the following things:
- The information was shared with a third party
- The information and the way it was presented to the third party was false
- The way the defendant represented the plaintiff would be offensive to a reasonable person
The court will take into account cultural and societal customs and the circumstances of the invasion of privacy. For example, someone who is a celebrity may not be protected in invasion of privacy cases as much as an ordinary person. This is because their job benefits from any type of publicity, and they are at lower risk of being financially impacted by these types of invasion of privacy.
Invasion of Privacy Lawsuit
The plaintiff must prove the following information in this type of invasion of privacy lawsuit:
- The information publicized is about the plaintiff or allegedly about the plaintiff
- The publication paints the plaintiff in a false light
- The information was publicized maliciously
- Proof of damages to the plaintiff because of this publication
Taking Legal Action For Invasion of Privacy
If you have suffered an invasion of privacy, you can sue the guilty party in a civil lawsuit. Unlike defamation of character, the defendant in an invasion of privacy lawsuit cannot defend their actions by stating the information was true. The plaintiff can ask for the remedy of damages, an injunction, or both.
It is important to note that the family or loved ones of the person whose privacy was invaded cannot file a civil lawsuit unless their privacy was invaded too. The exception to this is the consensual use of their name and image. However, if the person whose name or image was used is deceased, then no one can file an invasion of privacy claim.
Only individual people can file invasion of privacy lawsuits; associations, institutions, or corporations cannot file these civil lawsuits. Likewise, animals, such as pets, are not protected from invasion of privacy. The pet owner can only file an invasion of privacy lawsuit if their privacy is invaded.
Who Can I Sue For Invasion of Privacy?
Legal people and individuals can be sued for invasion of privacy; legal people are businesses and entities who are entitled to buy and sell assets like a person. State and city councils, religious organizations, and municipal corporations also may be sued for invasion of privacy. No matter what, we recommend hiring a skilled attorney if you plan to file a lawsuit for invasion of privacy. It is a complex matter, and a lawyer will be able to listen to the circumstances and tell you if you have a case or not. Religious organizations and state governments or local councils have different laws pertaining to invasion of privacy. So it is not as straightforward as an invasion of privacy from the press or an individual person.
Invasion of Privacy Damages
The type of invasion of privacy and the circumstances of the case will dictate what sort of damages you may be able to claim. Your attorney will be able to help you calculate the damages you may be eligible for; however, the court will decide what to award based on the evidence you provide. You could claim damages for:
- Emotional distress, mental anguish, or humiliation (proved by therapist visits or witness testimony)
- Damage to reputation
- Financial damage (you will need to prove the damages through bank statements or loss of business)
- Punitive damages in severe cases
- Loss of consortium for the plaintiff’s spouse
Additionally, if the invasion of privacy lawsuit is based on the use of the plaintiff’s name or image without their permission, the plaintiff may be able to recover the profit raised by the use.
In order to claim damages, the plaintiff must prove that they took steps to reduce any damages. This may include things like releasing a statement in a timely manner, seeking immediate therapy, or other appropriate actions. If the court believes the plaintiff did not take appropriate steps to reduce the damage from the invasion of privacy, then the court will reduce the amount of damages by the amount they believe could have been avoided.
Additionally, plaintiffs cannot claim damages for invasion of privacy that resulted in positive publicity, especially if they are a public figures. Public figures can only file invasion of privacy lawsuits for negative press.