Privacy Law

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.


Know Your Rights!

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

    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 Related to Privacy Law

  • 10 Privacy Laws To Speed Read Before You Record Your Ex
    When facing a contested divorce situation, husbands and wives are tempted to record each other with the hope to improve their individual divorce outcome. This article is a reminder that while your high tech gizmo may enable you to intercept some valuable dirt on your ex, privacy law likely prohibits it.
  • Do You Have a Right to Privacy?
    Frequently, we hear people refer to a right to privacy, and many surveys even show that most Americans even believe that it is a specific right under the Constitution (though they cannot agree as to which amendment it is). In reality, there is no amendment that specifically protects privacy, though it has been recognized in several U.S. Supreme Court cases.
  • Secret Court Ruling Explains Government's Legal Justification for Warrantless Collection of Phone Data
    Since the revelation by former government contractor, Edward Snowden, that the federal government had been spying on US citizens for years, the opinions of both the public and a number of elected officials have shown strong disapproval for this conduct.
  • Defamation: What it is and How to Deal with It
    Defamation is when someone tells one or more persons an untruth about you, and that untruth harms your reputation. Defamation is the general term, while slander and libel refer to particular types of defamation. Libel is a written defamation, and slander is verbal. There are three key factors to consider when deciding whether a defamatory statement should be taken to court.
  • The Liability of Recording Others
    Though many people today take advantage of modern technology and record meetings or conversations for their own purposes or preservation, it would behoove them to know about the liabilities listed in the New Jersey Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Control Act.
  • Chick-Fil-A, Thomas Menino, and the First Amendement – Interview with Dustin Hecker
    On the 20th of July, Boston mayor Thomas Menino sent Dan Cathy, President of Chick-Fil-A, a strongly worded letter discouraging him from expanding his enterprise into his city. Proponents of both figures hastily emerged to voice their opinions on this issue. It seems that the scale ultimately tipped in favor of Cathy, as evidenced in Chick-Fil-A’s record breaking sales in the aftermath known as “appreciation day.”
  • The Importance of Guarding Privacy During Divorce
    When a married couple decides to separate, they will be required to make numerous decisions regarding their future lives apart from one another. Some of the most highly contested decisions involve the division of property and the spousal maintenance that one spouse pays to the other. These decisions can become so heated that spouses have been known to use every bit of information to gain an advantage over the other.
  • Freedom of Information Act and Privacy
    Most township officials are aware of the importance of complying with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Like a number of other areas of law, compliance with such a statute has become increasingly complex as a result of shifting interpretations by the courts. Learn more about the cases that have had an effect on the interpretation of the act in recent years.
  • Protecting Your Personal Information with Online Privacy Laws
    A lot of people who use the internet have the need to protect their privacy. However, the internet is still so new that online privacy laws are still being written and modified.
  • Electronic Evidence Meets Right to Privacy in Texas Divorce Cases
    There is a false sense of security that takes place when we log on to the internet, our smart phones, or some other form of electronic communication. Many of us seem to think that our true selves are separated from these pieces of technology and that our words and actions are anonymous and floating somewhere through the netherworld of cell phone towers and W-Fi hotspots.
  • 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.

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