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Invasion of Privacy Explained

Invasion of privacy occurs in situations where a victim’s reasonable right to privacy has been intruded upon.

Depending on the situation, the individual might need a bail bond.  Often, most invasion of privacy cases are civil in nature, but they are still important to understand from a lawful perspective.

There are four primary types of invasion of privacy, and these torts are typically set by state law. The four types of privacy invasion are Intrusion of Solitude, False Light, Appropriation of Name or Likeness, and Public Disclosure of Private Facts. Each of these are expanded upon below.

Intrusion of Solitude

This type of intrusion occurs when someone interferes with another person’s private affairs or interrupts their solitude in a physical or nonphysical way. ‘Peeping Toms’ typically fall into this category, as well as those who might search through another’s private records or intercept and record phone calls.

Taking photos of a person in a public place would not fall into this category, but the use of a long-range lens to capture images of a subject inside their home would fall into this category. A handful of unsolicited phone calls would not necessarily be defined as an invasion of privacy, but constant harassment using the phone as a tool certainly would. Other forms of invading someone’s privacy include the publication of information gleaned from the invasion, but this form only requires the intrusion itself to be considered invasion of privacy.

A good example of this would be a man using a tree in his own yard to get a view of his female neighbor undressing in an upstairs bedroom or bathroom. In this case, the emotional distress of catching the man in the act would be the injury that would sustain the charge.

False Light

False light claims are related to defamation claims since they provide a way for defendants to sue when they are presented in a misleading way in publicly disclosed information. Defamation claims are only related to publicly publishing that false information, but in some cases the protections of the First Amendment trump any other statutes.

For a false light claim to be credible, several elements must be in place. First, the defendant will publish a claim against the plaintiff, and it must be done in a reckless manner. It must also offer misleading information about the plaintiff, and that information must be embarrassing or offensive to the average person.

Appropriation of Name or Likeness

The most common case for this sort of invasion of privacy occurs when an advertisement features a celebrity that did not agree to appear in the advertisement. In many states, this sort of tort is limited to commercial use in order to cut down on frivolous lawsuits.

There are other cases where this type of privacy invasion can occur, but they are more rare. For instance, a private investigator might impersonate a subject in order to gain information to which they would not otherwise have access. In using a false identity, they have invaded the subject’s privacy. This tort is similar to the idea of property. The name and likeness of an individual is considered that individual’s property, so its use without permission is illegal.

Public Disclosure of Private Facts

This is a tricky area of privacy invasion because the First Amendment must be weighed against every privacy claim. In defamation cases, the information published is false, but in this situation, the information is accurate. If the information that is published does not concern the public, and it is offensive to the reasonable person, then it is possible that legal action may be taken.

For instance, if a patient agrees to allow doctors to film a surgery for educational purposes only, but that film is included in a commercial movie theater as part of a public film, then the patient has had his or her privacy invaded. However, when news of an affair between a politician and a member of his staff is published, there is no invasion of privacy because it concerns the public. This can be a slippery slope for those defending the First Amendment, but a reasonable right to privacy often trumps those claims, especially in cases where the plaintiff was clearly wronged by the actions of another publishing their private yet factual information.

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