Invasion of Privacy Law & Legal Definition


Invasion of privacy is the intrusion into the personal life of another, without just cause, which can give the person whose privacy has been invaded a right to bring a lawsuit for damages against the person or entity that intruded. It encompasses workplace monitoring, Internet privacy, data collection, and other means of disseminating private information.

Celebrities are not protected in most situations, since they have voluntarily placed themselves already within the public eye, and their activities are considered newsworthy. However, an otherwise non-public individual has a right to privacy from: a) intrusion on one's solitude or into one's private affairs; b) public disclosure of embarrassing private information; c) publicity which puts him/her in a false light to the public; d) appropriation of one's name or picture for personal or commercial advantage.

The Supreme Court has ruled that there is a limited constitutional right of privacy based on a number of provisions in the Bill of Rights and subsequent amendments. This includes a right to privacy from government surveillance into an area where a person has a "reasonable expectation of privacy" and also in matters relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, child rearing and education. However, records held by third parties such as financial records or telephone calling records are generally not protected unless a specific federal law applies. The court has also recognized a right of anonymity and the right of groups to not have to disclose their members' names to government agencies.

The criminal voyeurism statute of some states cover "a place where [one] would have a reasonable expectation of privacy", meaning:

  1. A place where a reasonable person would believe that he or she could disrobe in privacy, without being concerned that his or her undressing was being photographed or filmed by another; or
  2. A place where one may reasonably expect to be safe from casual or hostile intrusion or surveillance.

Given the similarity to voyeurism, a jury might find that placing a hidden camera in a certain location may amount to the torts of outrage or negligent infliction of emotional distress.