In a high-profile privacy lawsuit, former pro-wrestler Hulk Hogan won a $115 million jury verdict against Gawker for posting his sex video without his consent. Hulk Hogan, whose real name is TerryBollea, brought a lawsuit for invasion of privacy and other torts. Under one of the main privacy torts — public disclosure of private facts — one can be liable if one widely and publicly discloses private information about another that would be highly offensive to a reasonable person and not of legitimate concern to the public.
All posts in Privacy Torts
By Daniel J. Solove
This post is co-authored by Professor Neil Richards
The case illustrates several fascinating aspects of the developing global law of privacy, with big implications for online marketing, Big Data, and the Internet of Things.
At first blush, it is easy to see the case as one more divergence between how privacy is protected in the EU and US, with a European Court once again showing how much eager it is to protect privacy than an American one. But the biggest takeaway from the case is not one of divergence; it is one of convergence!
by Daniel J. Solove
In a recent AP story, actress Jennifer Lawrence had some rather extensive and passionate quotes about her loss of privacy. Not too long ago, Lawrence’s nude photos were stolen and leaked on the Internet by a hacker who hacked into her iCloud account. In her comments for the AP story, she lamented how much paparazzi were harassing her: “I knew the paparazzi were going to be a reality in my life. . . . But I didn’t know that I would feel anxiety every time I open my front door, or that being chased by 10 men you don’t know, or being surrounded, feels invasive and makes me feel scared and gets my adrenaline going every day.”
“It is a sexual violation. It’s disgusting.
The law needs to be changed, and we need to change.”
— Jennifer Lawrence on her nude photos being
non-consensually disclosed online
Fairly recently, Jennifer Lawrence’s iCloud account was hacked and her private nude photos were stolen and posted online. She was mortified.
Her case is just one of many, according to Professor Danielle Citron (University of Maryland School of Law), who very recently published a book about online harassment, Hate Crimes in Cyberspace (Harvard University Press 2014).
It is a compelling and provocative book. It is a bold book. And as the recent news stories indicate, it is a book that couldn’t be more timely and more needed. One might think that online harassment is rare. Who would write such mean and vile things? What kind of person would harass Zelda Williams, the daughter of Robin Williams, who was viciously attacked online immediately after her father’s death? Even Caligula would show more humanity.
In a recent case, the Court of Appeal for Ontario, Canada recognized the privacy torts that are widely-recognized in the United States. Many foreign common law jurisdictions, including the United Kingdom and other countries, have steadfastly refused to recognize the privacy torts spawned by the 1890 law review article by Samuel Warren and Louis Brandeis, The Right to Privacy, 4 Harv. L. Rev. 193 (1890). These torts – intrusion upon seclusion, public disclosure of private facts, false light, and appropriation of name or likeness – are known collectively as “invasion of privacy.” In the case of Jones v. Tsige, 2012 ONCA 42 (Jan. 18, 2012), the Court of Appeal for Ontario finally recognized the US privacy tort of intrusion upon seclusion – intentionally intruding upon a person’s seclusion or solitude, or into his private affairs.
A common argument made to justify First Amendment restrictions on privacy torts and defamation law is that legal liability will chill the media. I am generally sympathetic to these arguments, though only to a point. I think these arguments are often overblown. An interesting point of comparison is the UK, where there is a much weaker protection of free speech and much stronger defamation law. Although the UK has not embraced all of the privacy torts recognized in the United States, it has come close, recognizing a robust tort of breach of confidence. Despite the lack of a First Amendment equivalent, and the stronger legal liability for gossip and libel, the press in the UK seems anything but chilled or cowed. Consider J.K. Rowling’s recent testimony:
There are some new details emerging in the Tyler Clementi cyberbullying case at Rutgers. The case involves freshmen at Rutgers University. Dharun Ravi used a webcam to film and broadcast online an intimate encounter between his roommate Tyler Clementi and another man.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit recently upheld a school’s discipline of a student for engaging in off-campus cyberbullying of another student. In Kowalski v. Berkeley County Schools, — F.3d — (4th Cir. July 27, 2011), a student (Kara Kowalski) created a MySpace profile called “S.A.S.H.,” which she said was short for “Students Against Sluts Herpes.” Another student, however, claimed it really stood for “Students Against Shay’s Herpes,” referring to a student named Shay N. Kowalski invited about 100 people to join the page, and about 24 people joined.
Professor Paul Schwartz (Berkeley School of Law) and I recently published a new book, PRIVACY LAW FUNDAMENTALS. This book is a distilled guide to the essential elements of U.S. data privacy law. In an easily-digestible format, the book covers core concepts, key laws, and leading cases.