Privacy Laws are those laws which relate to an individual or business entity's expectation to be left free from scrutiny or public exposure in their daily lives by either the government or other members of the public. While the Constitution does not specifically mention a right to privacy, the U.S. Supreme Court has noted in several decisions that it believes this right exists in the “penumbra” of several other, specifically enumerated rights, such as the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments. As such, it has been held, U.S. citizens are entitled to an expectation of privacy under the catch-all provision of the U.S. Constitution's Ninth Amendment.
Types of Privacy Rights
Privacy cases have been litigated for decades, and landmark decisions have been handed down in disputes over issues such as contraception, interracial marriage, and even abortion. More recent cases and legislative enactments have dealt with the lines between private activities and those for which an individual has no expectation of privacy (for example, whether store dressing rooms are public or private). Moreover, a great deal of modern privacy law has grown up around the increasing concerns over one's expectations of privacy in electronic transactions like surfing the Internet, sending E-mails or text messages, or even the books one reads on their portable devices.
Privacy in the Age of Terrorism
After the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington D.C., privacy laws were among the first to be eroded. Laws like the USA Patriot Act allowed for things that had previously been unheard of in American legal history, such as unwarranted wire taps, Internet monitoring, and other forms of domestic intelligence gathering. This led to the adoption of a number of programs, such as those which came to light in mid 2013 in which organizations like the NSA had been observing the online behavior of American citizens. While these actions have been challenged, it is not yet clear whether the public interest in protecting national security will be considered a more important concern than the privacy interests of the individual citizens affected by these monitoring programs.
Other Privacy Concerns
Another frequent source of infringement upon the privacy interests of modern citizens is websites that collect data on visitors and then either use that for direct marketing or sell the information to third parties. Similarly, personal data has become a huge area of concern, with strict new laws regarding the sharing and dissemination of medical history (HIPAA), misinformation in credit reports (Fair Credit Reporting Act), and many others. Similarly, long standing privacy concerns still remain, such as raiding someone else's mail, looking through their windows, or concealing cameras in locations one would expect privacy (like a restroom stall).
If you have questions about how best to protect yourself with regard to privacy laws, you can review the materials found below or contact an attorney for assistance with your specific inquiry. For a list of attorneys in your area, check the Law Firms page on this website.
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Privacy Law - US
- ABA - E-Privacy Committee
Welcome to our home page for the E-Privacy Committee. This site shares information and resources with our members, and members of the legal community, who are interested in legal aspects and implications of E-Privacy law.
- Facebook - Twitter - MySpace - Social Networking Privacy
Social networking Web sites, such as MySpace, Facebook, and Friendster have become established forums for keeping in contact with old acquaintances and meeting new ones. Users can create their own Web page and post details about themselves: where they went to school, their favorite movie titles, and their relationship status. They can link to friends on the same site, whose photos, names, and perhaps a brief description, will also appear on the Web page. While these Web sites are useful tools for exchanging information, there has been growing concern over breaches in privacy caused by these social networking services. Many users feel that their personal details are being circulated far more widely than they would like. In September 2006, Facebook's recently introduced News Feed feature spurred additional privacy concerns from users. Over 700,000 users signed an online petition demanding the company discontinue the feature, stating that this compromised their privacy.
- False Light - Privacy Tort
False light is one of the four categories of "privacy torts" (the others being misappropriation, intrusion, and publication of private facts). While the nature of false light claims vary by state, they generally protect people from offensive and false facts stated about them to the public.
- Financial Privacy - Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act
The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act imposes restrictions on the ability of financial institutions to disclose non-public personal information about consumers to nonaffiliated third parties and requires financial institutions to provide privacy notices to consumers.
- First Amendment of the Bill of Rights - United States Constitution
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights. The amendment prohibits the Congress from making laws "respecting an establishment of religion", impeding the free exercise of religion, infringing on the freedom of speech and infringing on the freedom of the press.
- FTC - Perspectives on Privacy Law and Enforcement Activity in the United States
The United States has been a leader in developing new technologies to support the Internet infrastructure and electronic commerce. As electronic commerce becomes more global, however, there are concerns about how new business models and new technologies might compromise the privacy interests of individual consumers. Some consumer advocates have argued that U.S. consumers need more commercial privacy regulation and have endorsed imposing a privacy regulatory regime on the Internet. Others state that the current legal regime is sufficient to protect consumers' privacy interests in today's evolving economy.
- FTC - Privacy Initiatives
Privacy is a central element of the FTC's consumer protection mission. In recent years, advances in computer technology have made it possible for detailed information about people to be compiled and shared more easily and cheaply than ever. That has produced many benefits for society as a whole and individual consumers. For example, it is easier for law enforcement to track down criminals, for banks to prevent fraud, and for consumers to learn about new products and services, allowing them to make better-informed purchasing decisions. At the same time, as personal information becomes more accessible, each of us - companies, associations, government agencies, and consumers - must take precautions to protect against the misuse of our information.
- HIPAA Security Rule - Health Information Privacy
The Office for Civil Rights enforces the HIPAA Privacy Rule, which protects the privacy of individually identifiable health information; the HIPAA Security Rule, which sets national standards for the security of electronic protected health information; and the confidentiality provisions of the Patient Safety Rule, which protect identifiable information being used to analyze patient safety events and improve patient safety.
- Privacy Act of 1974 - US Department of Justice
The Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. § 552a, establishes a code of fair information practices that governs the collection, maintenance, use, and dissemination of personally identifiable information about individuals that is maintained in systems of records by federal agencies. A system of records is a group of records under the control of an agency from which information is retrieved by the name of the individual or by some identifier assigned to the individual. The Privacy Act requires that agencies give the public notice of their systems of records by publication in the Federal Register.
- Privacy and Civil Liberties - US Department of Justice
This collaborative Web portal is a single point of access to the wide range of resources and training materials available in the Information Sharing Environment (ISE) that address Privacy and Civil Liberties protections, including products released by DOJ’s Global Advisory Committee. This portal is the result of a combined effort by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA).
- Privacy Law - Overview
United States privacy law embodies several different legal concepts. One is the invasion of privacy, a tort based in common law allowing an aggrieved party to bring a lawsuit against an individual who unlawfully intrudes into his or her private affairs, discloses his or her private information, publicizes him or her in a false light, or appropriates his or her name for personal gain. Public figures have less privacy, and this is an evolving area of law as it relates to the media.
- The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act
This Act protects children’s privacy by giving parents the tools to control what information is collected from their children online. Under the Act’s implementing Rule (codified at 16 C.F.R. Part 312), operators of commercial websites and online services directed to or knowingly collecting personal information from children under 13 must: (1) notify parents of their information practices; (2) obtain verifiable parental consent before collecting a child’s personal information; (3) give parents a choice as to whether their child’s information will be disclosed to third parties; (4) provide parents access to their child’s information; (5) let parents prevent further use of collected information; (6) not require a child to provide more information than is reasonably necessary to participate in an activity; and (7) maintain the confidentiality, security, and integrity of the information.
Organizations Related to Privacy Law
- American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
The ACLU is our nation's guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country.
- Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering (CASPIAN)
Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering (CASPIAN) is a national grass-roots consumer group dedicated to fighting supermarket "loyalty" or frequent shopper cards. CASPIAN's efforts are directed at educating consumers, condemning marketing strategies that invade shoppers' privacy, and encouraging privacy-conscious shopping habits.
- Direct Marketing Association - Commitment to Consumer Choice
The Commitment to Consumer Choice’s foundation is DMA’s long-time public assurance that all members of DMA will follow specific practices to protect consumer privacy. This began in 1999 with the Privacy Promise to American Consumers and is being built upon today. The new CCC requirements apply to all DMA members that market to consumers. Suppliers and other businesses that provide services to consumer marketers should understand the new requirements so that they can implement them on behalf of DMA member clients.
- Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)
EPIC is a public interest research center in Washington, D.C. It was established in 1994 to focus public attention on emerging civil liberties issues and to protect privacy, the First Amendment, and constitutional values. EPIC publishes an award-winning e-mail and online newsletter on civil liberties in the information age - the EPIC Alert. We also publish reports and even books about privacy, open government, free speech, and other important topics related to civil liberties.
- Privacy International
An international human rights group based in London, England with offices in Washington, DC and Sydney, Australia. PI has members in over 40 countries and has led campaigns against national id cards, video surveillance and other privacy violations in numerous countries including Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and the Philippines. PI sponsors yearly international conferences on privacy issues.
- Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC)
Your personal information is more than your name, address and Social Security number. It includes your shopping habits, driving record, medical diagnoses, work history, credit score and much more. The right to privacy refers to having control over this personal information. It is the ability to limit who has this information, how this information is kept and what can be done with it. Unfortunately, personal privacy is lost, unknowingly forfeited, purchased or stolen every day.
Publications Related to Privacy Law
- Privacy Journal
Privacy Journal is the most authoritative publication in the world on the individual's right to privacy. The monthly newsletter was founded in 1974, before there was an Internet, before there was e-mail, and before there was automated telemarketing. Thus, it's the oldest publication on privacy in the world. This acclaimed monthly newsletter is always full of news on new technology and its impact on privacy, useful tips for protecting your privacy, and the latest on court decisions, legislation, professional conferences, and corporate practices.
- Privacy Times
Privacy Times is the leading Subscription-only newsletter Covering privacy & Freedom of Information Law And policy. It is read largely by attorneys and professionals who must stay abreast of the legislation, litigation, and executive branch activities, as well as consumer news, technology trends and business developments. Since 1981, Privacy Times has provided its readers With accurate reporting, objective analysis and thoughtful insight into the events that shape the ongoing debate over privacy and Freedom of Information.
Privacy.net provides information and tips about Privacy. Read about credit reports, identity theft, Internet privacy and more. Demonstrations of your Internet connection and Internet cookies have been recently updated.
Privacy.Org is the site for daily news, information, and initiatives on privacy. This web page is a joint project of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and Privacy International.
- Public Interest Research Groups (PIRG)
U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), stands up to powerful special interests on behalf of the American public, working to win concrete results for our health and our well-being. With a strong network of researchers, advocates, organizers and students in state capitols across the country, we take on the special interests on issues, such as product safety,political corruption, prescription drugs and voting rights,where these interests stand in the way of reform and progress.
Articles on HG.org Related to Privacy Law
- Electronic Records and Patient SafetyGuidelines have been put in place for healthcare professionals and staff in medical facilities that require that standards are followed closely. These guidelines are to provide proper treatment and avoid medical malpractice as much as possible. One standard is to provide safety of medical records and privacy. A physician may be held liable for breaching a patient’s confidentiality.
- Can I Sue a Company for Using My Image to Sell a Product?Many companies use photos of people when selling their brand or product. Often times, these photos are of models or professional actors. In some cases, businesses may use photos of private parties rather than expert models.
- Acquiring Recorded Conversations with a BusinessMany businesses record phone calls that come into the business as a matter of practice. This may be to keep a record for future use, for training purposes or to protect the business’ interests. However, if a customer wants a copy of the conversation, he or she may have difficulty acquiring it.
- Prohibition on the Publication of Personal InformationThis is the information age of electronics, data, computing and the internet. Cameras and the ability to capture photos and video are everywhere. Protecting private information is no longer an easy thing to do. This could allow one’s likeness or attributes to be used in various ways that allow others to make money. The protection of personal information, likeness and private data is covered under the law.
- Electronic Privacy During Divorce or SeparationAs Americans, our online and offline lives are almost always intertwined, affecting the way we live, work and communicate.
- Can I Have My Mugshot Removed from the Internet?While people laugh at celebrity mugshots and may even peruse local ones for amusement, mugshots can be extremely embarrassing to the individuals portrayed. Quite often, a mugshot is considered public information. However, there are some instances in which a person can have a mugshot removed.
- Do I Have Any Legal Rights Against a Nonfiction Author?When people right their autobiographies or memoirs, they may recount stories that others do not wish to share. While the first amendment provides for the freedom of speech, this right is not absolute. Simply because a person deems something to be “nonfiction” does not make it true. Individuals who do not like the way that they are being portrayed may have legal claims against the author.
- Can You Be Sued for Something You Post on Facebook?Since Facebook’s launch, millions of users have been drawn to the site to give friends updates, share pictures and reconnect. As such, it has provided people with a platform to communicate information in a way that they may otherwise never have considered. While posting information on Facebook may give people a sense of anonymity especially if their profile does not reflect their true identity, posting certain information on Facebook may provide the basis for a lawsuit.
- Bounds of Privacy in Public Locations -- What is Legal?Anyone who has walked down a public street, driven a car, entered a store, or engaged in virtually any other activity outside of their own home has undoubtedly been recorded. Sometimes the surveillance is obvious and other times it is not. So, what are the bounds of privacy and how far can private entities or the government go in surveilling someone without a warrant while they are in a public place?
- Facebook Establishes Policy for Memorial PagesFew people have ever asked themselves the question, “who will manage my social media accounts after I die” but Facebook may have changed that.
- All Civil Rights Law Articles
Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Civil Rights including: constitutional law, consumer law, discrimination, human rights, native populations, privacy law, public law and sexual harassment.