Privacy Definition Law

Privacy definition law is the right of a person to make their own decisions regarding private or personal matters. The right to privacy is the major component of Roe v. Wade, for example, as abortion is viewed as an intimate matter. Additionally, under Common Law, an individual’s right to privacy provides protections from such things as unwarranted surveillance, nosey neighbors and intrusive media.

With that said, celebrities (actors, musicians, athletes) are not generally protected under the laws regarding privacy rights, as it is understood that they chose careers which would put them in the public eye, placing them under public scrutiny.

Surprisingly, courts in the United States did not generally recognize the right to privacy prior to 1890, until such time as Samuel D. Warren and Louis D. Brandeis published an article titled “The Right to Privacy.” Since its publication, however, this article has been the foundation for most cases regarding a person’s right to privacy in the United States.

Statutory Law

Statutory law is the means by which the right to privacy is generally protected. Under statutory law, a private citizen is protected in some of the following ways:

  • Unwarranted drug testing (although many employers will require a drug test prior to onboarding a new employee)
  • Electronic surveillance (unless a warrant or court order has been issued, with cause)
  • Health information and medical records are protected under the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act, also known as HIPAA.
  • Various privacy policies and privacy statements are protected by the Federal Trade Commission, or the FTC.
  • The rights of programs or groups that rely on discretion or anonymity are also protected by the right to privacy, and are not required to provide names of attendees or participants to the police or other government officials. This is typically cited among self-help groups, religious groups and 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

Information that is held by a third party may not be protected under the right to privacy laws, unless otherwise specified. This may include records such as telephone records and financial records, such as bank or credit card statements.

How to Protect Your Privacy

At a time in which the United States government is often engaging in surveillance of its citizens under the precedent of national security, private citizens, while accepting that a certain amount of government intrusion may be acceptable, are also increasingly concerned with protecting their privacy. Additionally, individuals have an increased awareness of protecting their privacy not only from government intrusion, but from having their personal information accessed or used without permission by stores or businesses. Businesses themselves also have a heightened interest in protecting their privacy, such as client, customer, or employee information, as this information can be easily hacked, despite the advancements in modern technology.

As an individual, some of the steps you can take in protecting your privacy include:

  • Avoiding shopper’s cards, whether they be cards that are scanned to apply discounts or a credit or charge card that is specific to the retailer. Retailers will often then use the information gathered from these cards to send targeted advertisements or offers; as the card is specific to that retailer, they may also maintain the rights to sell or distribute your information to other retailers, as they see fit. As a consumer, you can protect your privacy by not using such cards, or by insisting upon certain stipulations regarding the use of the information that is gathered.
  • Keeping an eye on your credit report. Not only will inquiries lower your credit score, they may be being run without your authorization. Should you see inquiries on your credit report that you did not request, you have the right to contact the credit bureau and request that they investigate.
  • Requesting that the Department of Motor Vehicles in your area not release your contact information, such as address and phone number, to anyone without your permission. Your license and registration information is generally public information, in most states. This information can be easily accessed by insurance companies and car dealers to verify the validity of your ability to drive or purchase a car.

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