INVASION OF PRIVACY; AN OLD TORT WITH NEW LIFE
Since 1959 Connecticut has recognized that someone who unreasonably and seriously interferes with another person’s right to privacy can be held liable for damages. In Korn v. Rennison, the Connecticut Superior Court held that someone who engages in conduct that he would have realized was offensive to persons of ordinary sensibilities could be held responsible for damages. In Kern, the publication of a photograph for advertising purposes without consent was deemed sufficient to support a claim for invasion of privacy.
Over the years, the law of privacy has developed into categories of invasion of four different interests, each representing an interference with the right to be left alone, namely: Unreasonable intrusion upon the seclusion of another; appropriation of another’s name or likeness; unreasonable publicity given to another’s private life; and publicity that unreasonably places the other in a false light before the public.
With the ever growing and intrusive presence of the World Wide Web, the proliferation of social media platforms and the ability for someone to remotely access another’s personal information by keystrokes while miles, indeed, countries or continents apart, invasion of privacy is breathing new life.
In a long term relationship that ended badly, litigants recently found themselves before the superior court in Rockville to battle, among other claims, the defendant’s counterclaim that the plaintiff invaded his privacy by accessing his and his parent’s private e-mail communications and photographs. The ex- girlfriend did not dispute access to the e-mails, rather she argued that she was never told to no longer use the passwords after the relationship had terminated, and continued to do so for over a year.
The court was not persuaded by the explanation, and concluded that such access was an unreasonable intrusion upon the defendant’s seclusion. The court noted that the plaintiff should have reasonably concluded that once the relationship ended, there was no legitimate reason to access the e-mail accounts, and any reasonable person would have understood that such intrusion was neither invited nor wanted. The court went on to conclude that since the intrusions were continuous and specifically targeted at gathering information about the ex’s new relationship, the invasion of privacy was both unreasonable and substantial.
The World Wide Web provides resources not even imaginable when invasion of privacy was first recognized as an actionable tort in 1959. Simply because the access is there, however, does not mean that utilizing the resource is appropriate when intruding on another’s solitude, as doing so can bring about legal liability.