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The Law of Privacy

07 June 2015

The protection of privacy which embodies our law of confidentiality has become increasingly important. Together with the law of defamation, privacy and confidentiality are vital rights for individuals and corporations, especially when well known figures and celebrities attract so much attention.

What is privacy?

A breach of privacy involves a misuse of private information. It has developed out of the law of confidence.

Traditional Privacy

The law has developed dramatically over the past few years to provide a remedy for the protection of privacy rights in addition to the protection of confidentiality rights such as commercial secrets. This has largely been as a result of the Human Rights Act 1998.

Traditionally, Privacy actions have been based on a breach of confidence. Breach of confidence comprises three essential requirements:

  • That the information disclosed “has the necessary quality of confidence” i.e. that the information be considered private rather than public.
  • The information was obtained in circumstances imposing an obligation of confidence (usually having been disclosed in confidence or in a situation where confidence is implied).
  • There has been, or threatened to be, an unauthorised use of the information.

The defences to such a claim are that the publication took place with the claimant’s consent, was already known to the public, or that there was a public interest in publication. An important point to remember is that not everything that interests the public will be viewed by the courts as in the public interest.

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