Right to Privacy: Public Disclosure of Private Facts

Every person has the right to be protected against having private information, which is not a matter of public concern, from being publicized and disseminated by another private person. This right also turns on the offense which any reasonable person might take because of the public release of such information.

For a person currently involved in a lawsuit or going through a legal proceeding, while he or she is still a private person, this right to privacy does not cover information that is part of the public records, the public proceeding, or part of public interest because of the legal proceeding. Expecting the right to privacy to be protected in those instances is not reasonable given the public interest in the conduct of the legal proceeding and any and all facts that may stem from it.

On the other hand, any information or fact that is not necessary, significant or relevant to those legal proceedings, are still covered by the right to privacy. Hence, despite the possible publication of personal information related to the case that the plaintiff or defendant is involved in, if the matter is private and not relevant to the case, the right to privacy still stands. That means that to a certain extent, certain aspects of a person’s private life is still considered protected.

Additionally, unlike in cases of libel or slander, the truth is not a defense.  Just because the matter is true does not make it the concern of the public, and if its publication will be considered offensive by any reasonable person, there is a cause of action. For instance, private facts such as sexual preferences, personal illnesses, or various other personal difficulties are not considered the public interest. Divulging these facts or publishing them in a way that the general public becomes aware of these facts regarding a person can be deemed offensive by the most reasonable person, especially if they were taking the trouble to keep these privates facts hidden. That it is true and not a lie is no defense. A person has the right to be left alone and to be allowed to keep his or her private affairs private.

Under these definitions, you might think that newspapers and reporters would have been challenged by rights to privacy long ago. But this right is also limited by the protection that the law grants to the publication of information that is considered newsworthy. If it is legitimate reporting of matters or information of public interest, or if it involves publication of information that is already considered a matter of public record (such as facts and details involved in legal proceedings), the right to privacy does not apply.

This protection against the publication of private information considered offensive by any reasonable person does not survive the death of a person. This is because the right only applies to private individuals, and not a legal entity such as corporations, organizations, or a person’s estate. So, if a person dies and another publishes private information about him, the deceased’s estate has no cause of action. Other private individuals who might also be affected, however, can sue for any damages they may suffer personally.