At a time where more material than ever is being shared and published online and in the press (and with the paparazzi culture showing no sign of abating), it is becoming increasingly difficult for individuals to protect their own private and confidential information and that of their family from being made public.
Victims of privacy invasions have described how this practice made them feel violated and exposed after intimate details of their lives have been made public. Privacy law has developed hugely in the last 20 years and action can now be taken pursuant to what is known as the misuse of private information tort – see our ‘Privacy – frequently asked questions’ section below for more information.
Taylor Hampton’s cases against News International were pivotal in the downfall and closure of the News of the World, and the establishment of the Leveson inquiry. Subsequently, the firm represented several claimants in the landmark privacy case of Gulati v MGN in which record damages were awarded.
Of course, it is not just celebrities who have had their privacy invaded; those who are victims of crime or have suffered a family tragedy often have their anguish compounded by becoming the subject of press intrusion, with their photographs and intimate details about their lives appearing in the media.
Taylor Hampton’s expert privacy law attorneys have represented many people, both in and outside the public eye, who have had their private lives exposed in the media.
The quicker we can act, the better the outcome. The best way to safeguard your privacy is to prevent your private information from being published or otherwise misused in the first place. Our privacy attorneys can engage with the prospective publisher to obtain their undertaking that they will not publish and will destroy and/or return your private information, failing which we are experienced in applying to the Court to obtain an injunction to prevent publication.
If a story which invades your privacy has already been published online, our solicitors will work hard to ensure that it is promptly removed from the internet. Where required, we can track down the culprits even if they are anonymous.
If a story which invades your privacy appears in the printed press or on TV we can insist on an early and fulsome apology, together with payment of appropriate compensation and your legal costs.
We are litigation experts and, where clients have not been able to protect their privacy prior to issuing court proceedings, we have a strong track record of successfully suing in relation to breaches of privacy. Remedies we obtain include injunctions to stop a story being published, undertakings not to repeat an article, an apology, payment of damages and costs, and where appropriate, the reading of a statement in open court by way of vindication.
Breach of Data Protection
Data protection is an ever-expanding area of the law. The rights of Data Subjects are enshrined in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA). Our privacy attorneys can take action on your behalf pursuant to the GDPR and/or DPA in order to enforce your data rights.
The GDPR recognises the following rights of Data Subjects:
- The right to be informed;
- The right of access;
- The right of rectification;
- The right to erasure, also known as the ‘right to be forgotten’;
- The right to restrict processing;
- The right to data portability;
- The right to object;
- The right not to be subject to automated decision-making and profiling.
The right to rectification and the right of erasure are of particular importance in the context of controlling an individual’s personal information that is available online. Personal data must be accurate and kept up to date – if a Data Controller such as Google or an online publisher is in breach of its obligations in this respect, we may be able to make a request on your behalf that the information be corrected or entirely removed, without undue delay.
If your rights (as outlined above) are breached, you may be entitled to a range of remedies and compensation.
If you believe that your personal information has been unlawfully processed, used and accessed or you are facing allegations of non-compliance with the GDPR and DPA, please contact our data protection solicitors at Taylor Hampton to find out how our privacy lawyers can help you.
Privacy – frequently asked questions:
What do I need to show in order to bring misuse of private information claim?
First, you will need to show that you have a reasonable expectation of privacy in respect of the information which has been or is going to be accessed/disclosed. This is a broad question in which the Court will take account of all the circumstances of the case including the attributes of the claimant, the nature of the activity in which the claimant was engaged, the place at which it was happening, the nature and purpose of the intrusion, the absence of consent and whether the effect of publication on the claimant was known or could be inferred.
Second, the Court will need to conduct a balancing exercise between any competing rights engaged. This involves weighing up the arguments for restricting/interfering with the competing rights. The most common competing right relied upon by defendants is Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights – the right to freedom of expression.
What type of information does the Court consider private?
Integral to a person’s right to privacy are the principles of human dignity and autonomy. There is no definition of ‘private’ but the concept is being continually developed by the courts and covers a wide spectrum of private life. The following categories of information are capable of being held as private:
- Family relationships;
- Sexual relationships;
- Medical information;
- Personal financial information;
- Professional and business activities;
- Legal advice;
- Photographs of children in a public place; and
- Personal information such as home address and age.
What can I do if the information has not yet been published?
If publication is threatened, we may be able to obtain an interim injunction restraining publication pending further order. Alternatively, we can seek to reach agreement with the publisher without the need of a Court order. Once publication has taken place, it is difficult to reverse any damage that has been caused – for this reason, it is important that you act quickly. Please contact Taylor Hampton to find out how our privacy lawyers can help you.
What is the first stage in a misuse of private information claim?
The first step is to write and send to the intended defendant what is known as a Pre-Action Protocol Letter of Claim. This letter will set out your complaint in detail and give the defendant an opportunity to respond. Sometimes, the Defendant accedes to the requests contained in the letter and a settlement can be reached. Sometimes however, the defendant chooses to defend the claim, in which case the next step would be for us to issue proceedings on your behalf.
What if I do not know the identity of the publisher?
If publication is threatened, it is possible to obtain relief against ‘unknown persons’. If you do not know the identity of the person responsible for the publication, for example if the information features on an anonymous blog, we may be able to apply for a pre-action disclosure order against a third party who does know the identity of the wrongdoer.
What defences can a defendant raise?
The defendant may seek to argue that you do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in respect of the information that is the subject of the claim. The defendant may also argue that the private information was already in the public domain prior to the publication complained of. Another common defence is that the misuse of private information was justified on the basis that it was in the public interest and Article 10 of the HRA98 should prevail.
What remedies are available to me?
An injunction restraining publication and payment of damages (compensation) are the most common remedies.
How long do I have to issue a misuse of private information claim?
In the UK generally you have six years from the date of publication, to issue your claim for breach of privacy.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is for information purposes only. The article is not advice and should not be treated as such. The legal points made in this article are for general application only and should not be taken as specific advice for individual use.