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Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

If you do not use any names can you violate someone’s privacy?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (21302 points ) June 8th, 2011

If you said on a billboard, something that happened to you but you did not mention anyone’s name; can the other party in the action on the billboard claim a violation of their privacy? The random person driving down the freeway would not know who was being mention. The people who are friends to either party would know who was being talked about but since they already know them how is privacy broken or secrets leaked?

What if it was the actions of a company or organization and not an individual, is that a game changer? If a person said on a billboard, ”My nation wide coverage would be great if the nation was no larger than the Vatican, and their Droid phones suck”. Even if there were only two cell phone providers that would fit the bill since no business name was mentioned can they fry foul?

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6 Answers

Stinley's avatar

In the case that you cite there could be friends who know the people in question but have no idea about the private event. The billboard would inform them of this private event. That’s where the privacy violation would occur.

If the message was in some sort of code that only people who knew about it would understand then I would possibly say that this was not privacy violation. But I’d have to look at the facts, case by case.

marinelife's avatar

In this case, it is easy to deduce who the billboard is talking about. There is no protection for the woman.

Her privacy rights trump his right to free speech.

I hope.

WasCy's avatar

“Privacy” is an implied right of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, not a prima facie right as “free speech”. Therefore, I’d say that his free speech rights overrule her “right to privacy”, distasteful as that may be.

However, if push comes to shove and if a court action arises, and if she asserts and demonstrates that the terminated pregnancy was due to miscarriage and not abortion, then she has a case of libel (or slander, I forget which is which) against him because of his misstatement of fact.

She may also choose to erect her own billboard: “If the nominal father of my aborted fetus [if she did choose to abort] hadn’t been such an ASS, then I may have elected to carry the pregnancy to term.” Clearly, he is an ass.

sinscriven's avatar

If he were to win that case it’d set a nasty precedent for protected health information (PHI) and other patient right violations in the future. Regardless, free speech does not make him immune to a defamation suit since it can be personally identifiable with the clear intent of malice to the woman.

What a prick.

Seaofclouds's avatar

The thing about protected health information is that it’s only protected in regards of keeping doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals from sharing it. It doesn’t really say that your mom, brother, husband, ex-whatever can’t tell other people about it. As far as the billboard in the link, I think only the people that know the couple might think something of it. I personally would just see it as a regular pro-life ad since, to me, it’s just a random person.

I can understand the woman being upset about it and I definitely wouldn’t want to be making a decision about this one.

Generally speaking, you can violate someone’s privacy without using their name if you use other identifying information. For example, if in the hospital I referred to a patient by the room number they were in, that can be considered identifying information because to some people, that’s enough information for them to know who I’m talking about. The identifying information he used was using his own picture. By using his own picture, it let people know that his girlfriend was pregnant and had an abortion. Of course, the only people that would figure out who she was were people that knew him/her, but it’s enough to identify her.

hobbitsubculture's avatar

Given that most people these days have a Facebook account (which shows their relationship status), it would be all too easy for any of several hundred “friends” to identify the girlfriend and learn about her abortion. Even without Facebook and such, she’s still identifiable. But social networking makes this a potentially huge privacy violation.

Sounds like there was good reason for her not to discuss the pregnancy with him, and then to abort. Dude’s a jerk.

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