Everything that you need to know about bringing a claim for breach of privacy
If your privacy has been breached, or is about to be breached, you can obtain an emergency injunction to prevent misuse of your private information.
Breach of privacy often involves additional claims for harassment and for breach of data. There are other causes of action that you might wish to consider along side a breach of privacy claim.
The right to private life is a right which is embedded in the Human Rights Act 1988. English law recognises breach of the right to private life as a wrong doing and you can bring a claim for misuse of private information if you believe that either your privacy has been invade or that there is a real threat of breach of your privacy.
A Privacy breach often gives rise to an additional claim for harassment because publication of private information is often intended to cause harassment to the victim. Time really is of the essence in so many cases of both breach of privacy and harassment and you should act swiftly.
You may bring a claim for breach of your privacy whenever there is a threat that someone may disclose information which is private to you, such as documents, images or facts, without your consent. In some cases, the publication of private information may be justified, for example, because there is clear public interest in the publication.
In any event, the public interest in the publication of your private information must be real to the extent that it overrides your right to a private life. You may also bring a claim for breach of privacy or for the misuse of your private information where you believe that someone had unlawfully accessed your private information. This may include accessing your phone, your computer or reading private letters.
You might bring a claim for breach of privacy under the common law of the misuse of private information, breach of confidence and breach of your data under General Data Protection Regulation (‘GDPR’) Data Protection Act 2018. Often cases of breach of privacy and misuse of private information also involve an element of harassment. You will therefore be able to take legal action also under the Protection from Harassment Act.
The difference between breach of confidence and the misuse of confidential information is mostly technical. Private information might be a person’s religious beliefs, sexual preferences or life choices that the individual makes which are only concerning him or her. You will have a realistic expectation of privacy over the information because it is something that only concerns you, or in other words - it’s nobody else’s business.
Breach of confidence, often refers to information which is secret. It could be secret because you might have told it to a partner or a friend on a confidential basis. It could also be a secret because it might be the subject of a contract which stipulates that the information is secret. A right to privacy or the misuse of private information is a relatively new concept in English law whilst the law of breach of confidence is well-established and dating back centuries. Information could of course be both private and confidential. If the information is both private and confidential, you will be able to bring a claim under both breach of privacy and the misuse of private information.
Breach of privacy and misuse of private information can also give grounds for a claim under the Protection from Harassment Act. An example of a case where breach of privacy and misuse of private information are also harassment is where someone is being blackmailed with videos of a sexual nature. There is a threat to publish the videos in breach of their right to privacy and at the same time the act of blackmail amounts to an act of harassment.
It makes no difference whether the threat or the actual publication of the private information relates to false claims. If someone threatens you with publication of private information about you, which is of private nature, you have a right to prevent the publication with an injunction under the Protection from Harassment Act or under the misuse of private information.
If private information has already been published, you need to take action to have it removed as soon as possible. If breach of your privacy has already spiralled and is appearing everywhere on the internet, there are strategies that will help remove the offending content from the internet and swiftly. It some cases, it could become impossible to protect private information if it has already been in the public domain, and as such is no longer private. You should therefore act as fast as you possibly can to either prevent the publication of the private information or to have it removed from the internet, before it becomes impossible to do so.
It used to be the case, for many years, that only celebrity and other individuals in the public eye, had been able to claim privacy issues and obtain appropriate injunctions to stop such publications of their private information. This is no longer the case. Private individuals who have never been famous and who had no desire to become as such, account to the vast majority of applications for privacy injunctions in England.
The cost of applying for an injunction under the misuse of private information has also gone down as there are more law firms now specialising in this field of law. Breach of privacy claims have become much more common by virtue of judge-made extensions to English law. This happened mainly due to cases of celebrities and other individuals in the public eye against media organisations, where there has been an invasion into the private lives of those individuals. Anyone can apply for an injunction for privacy breaches. What used to be an extremely expensive process, has now become a far more affordable right to be exercised by most members of the public.
As we have established in a number of recent cases, all individuals, regardless of their profession, should have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Breach of privacy often goes alongside harassment and defamation. No matter what has been published, if it makes you feel uncomfortable, then most likely the information is private in nature and this is a matter of breach of privacy.
Whenever you bring legal action, including legal action for breach of privacy or misuse of private information, you must first consider that in most cases, court documents are public, which means they can be seen and then published by journalists. There have been cases in the past, where celebrities as well as people who were not previously in the public eye, who attempted to protect what they considered as private information, ended up with further publicity, which they did not wish for.
For this reason, it is important that you verify first that the likelihood of success of any claim for breach of privacy is high enough and is likely to succeed. If you were to protect your privacy and if your case is going to be decided by the court, it is important that you take, from the outset, appropriate steps to have your privacy protected for the duration of your claim, and beyond.
Your private information may be disseminated on the internet on various websites, social media and private chat rooms. Images and videos that have been obtained as a result of breach of privacy, are often available on the dark web and can be downloaded through torrent sites. Before pursuing a claim for a privacy breach, it is important to understand the full extent of a breach of privacy that might have already occurred.
Harassment is an intention to cause distress or alarm and occurs on two or more occasions and this is easy to prove when it is occurring online. In cases where for example, photographs that were taken without consent and posted online, it is possible to carry out an internet search, using special recognition software that will help locate images that had been published in a breach of privacy issue.
Breach of privacy might relate to information which is true or an embellishment of the truth, which is often a favourite activity of tabloid journalists who tend to create sensationalism. It is also seen to be used vindictively by competitors or envious peers or disgruntled lovers. However, breach of privacy could be relating to information that is untrue and it is not for you as the victim to prove that the information is untrue.
In other words, if someone publishes information which say, relates to your sexuality, the fact that the information is false, makes little difference to whether the information is published in breach of your privacy. The same rule applies to information relating to ones' family, health or habits. There is no need for you to admit or deny the truthfulness of the private information.
All that you need to show, is that the information published is information of a private nature. Many cases that this firm deals with include all privacy issues in relation to the sharing of information about one's private life, family life, alleged conduct, alleged past behaviours, alleged affairs, alleged political preferences, alleged sexual orientation, alleged health issues, alleged beliefs and anything about the background of the person, that is true or not true.
You may be aware of a pending publication and want to ensure that nothing about you is published. We regularly engage with publishers to obtain their undertaking that they will not publish and will destroy and/or return your private information. If this fails, we liaise with them on agreed wording. Occasionally, we will have to apply swiftly to the Court to obtain an urgent injunction to prevent publication, which means we can stop the publication of any article that involves you, in any permutation. Many of our clients are in the public eye or are associated with people in the public eye and their right to a private life is as much theirs as it is ours.
If your spouse, associate, boyfriend or girlfriend obtained private information about you by hacking to your computer or by looking at certain information in your computer, which is of a private nature, and if they have threatened to publish this information one day, you can take steps to stop them. It is unfortunately common for disgruntled lovers to make threats to publish private images, videos or emails. In those cases, you will nearly always be better off confronting the issue even if you believe that this will cause them upset. The alternative is to allow yourself to be held to ransom, often to someone who is emotionally unstable.
Remedies that you can obtain from publishers of information published following breach of privacy, include: Injunctions to stop a story, an image or a video being published, undertakings not to repeat an article, an apology, payment of damages and legal costs and where appropriate, a statement in open court. A statement in open court is a powerful means of vindication as they will invariably attract some press interest, which can clear the air for many that have been publicly shamed.
The statement is usually a mutually agreed worded Joint Statement (JSoC) and it is an opportunity for the defendant to acknowledge their wrongdoing. It is very rare that after the conclusion of a court case, the defendant goes to continue publishing the prohibited information.
We are a niche law firm, dedicated in internet law and helping individuals with their breach of privacy and harassment issues are what we do on a daily basis. Our firm is the second highest user of the Media and Communication List at the High Court in London, yet, our clients remain anonymous in most cases and without the risk of information dissemination that is often associated with the larger law firms.