Invasion of Privacy Laws

Invasion of privacy laws and other related issues in the United States are addressed in various legal concepts. An invasion of privacy law allows an aggrieved party to bring a lawsuit against an individual who unlawfully intrudes the privacy of another person’s affaire, discloses private information, publicizes a false light, or uses a person’s name for personal gain. It’s important to note that public figures have less privacy or right to privacy given the nature of their public life and this is an area of law that is constantly evolving.

Categories of invasion of privacy laws include:

1. Intrusion of solitude - physical or electronic intrusion into one's private affairs. Hacking a computer is an example of intrusion upon privacy. In determining whether intrusion has occurred, one of two following items must be considered:

a) Common sense privacy is expected. For example, Internet privacy issues may arise whereby personal information shared with various websites may be disclosed to the public due to security negligence, and

b) deception, misrepresentation, or fraud occur to gain admission and "gather information" without publication. Notice that publication is not necessary to define intrusion.

2. Public disclosure of private facts – the dissemination of private information which a reasonable person would find objectionable. Public disclosure of private facts arises where one person reveals information which is not of public concern and the release of which would offend a reasonable person. Unlike libel or slander, truth is not a defense for invasion of privacy. Disclosure of private facts includes publishing or widespread dissemination of little-known, private facts that are non-newsworthy, not part of public records, public proceedings, not of public interest, and would be offensive to a reasonable person if made public.

3. False light - the publication of facts which place a person in a false light, even though the facts themselves may not be defamatory. False light is a legal term that refers to privacy similar to the tort of defamation. For example, the privacy laws in the United States include a non-public person's right to privacy from publicity which puts them in a false light to the public. False light laws are intended primarily to protect the plaintiff's mental or emotional well-being. If a publication of information is false, then a tort of defamation might have occurred. If that communication is not technically false but is still misleading then a tort of false light might have occurred.

4. Appropriation – the unauthorized use of a person's good name and records to obtain some benefits. A person’s right to privacy is not just vis-à-vis other individuals but also extends to the government. An individuals' Constitutional rights against the government include:

a) the Fourth Amendment right to be free of unwarranted search or seizure,
b) the First Amendment right to free assembly, and
c) the Fourteenth amendment recognized by the Supreme Court as protecting a general right to privacy within family.

Invasion of privacy laws may provide for monetary damages to be recovered from the privacy invader.

Some of the security & privacy laws listed below are further discussed in this section along with invasion of privacy laws:

• Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
• Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA)
• Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
• Privacy Act of 1974
• Electronic Communications Privacy Act