What is misuse of private information?
Private information should remain exactly that – private. But, if you believe that your private information has been misused, Litigation Executive Ben Brown provides all the information you will need to know.
The misuse of private information is a common law ‘tort’ (a civil wrong that causes someone to suffer loss or harm) which someone can use to take legal action and sue for damages where private information has been disclosed without their consent.
Where someone has misused your private information, resulting in financial loss or reputational damage, you may be entitled to make a claim for compensation.
In this article, we will explore:
- What is private information?
- What is the test for misuse of private information?
- What is the difference between breach of confidence and misuse of private information?
- Equitable cause of action as opposed to a civil tort – where breach of confidence relates to sensitive or secret information but not of a personal nature
- Can you sue someone for disclosing private information?
- How else can you protect your private information?
- What should you do if someone has misused your private information?
- How Hayes Connor can help if your information has been misused
At Hayes Connor, our team can support you with securing damages for misuse of private information under UK laws. We have a high level of experience and a proven track record of success in obtaining compensation payments for our clients.
What is private information?
Private information essentially boils down to any personal information that is considered to be private due to its personal nature. For example, it could include details about an individual’s health, or sex life. It will be any information that someone would claim to have a reasonable expectation of privacy over.
What constitutes private information will often be obvious, but there may be certain situations where the lines become blurred. Someone may not be able to claim a reasonable expectation of privacy if the information in question is already in the public domain.
What is the test for misuse of private information?
To establish whether misuse of private information has taken place, a two stage test is used. this involves establishing the following:
- There has been unwanted access to private and/or confidential information. In other words, someone will have had a reasonable expectation to privacy in relation to the information in question. There is likely to have been some degree of unwanted intrusion into the person’s personal space.
- A balancing test will assess the right to a private life against other’s rights. This will include information being in the public interest and a right for someone to exercise their freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
- The courts will be required to determine a balance between these elements based on the circumstances of the case. Neither aspect holds a precedent over the other.
The tort of misuse of private information has a broad remit. This means that it can cover a wide range of situations, including where the media has published information illicitly but also where information has been passed between people or shared online.
What is the difference between breach of confidence and misuse of private information?
There is plenty of confusion and overlap with regards to the misuse of private information and breach of confidence. While there are certainly many similarities to both, there are also some differences which distinguish one from the other.
The essential difference between the two is that misuse of private information will typically relate to information that is personal and private by its very nature (medical records and financial records are two obvious examples). On the other hand, a breach of confidence will involve information which is intended to be secret, but is not necessarily of a personal nature.
With a breach of confidence, it is also key that the information is considered secret because of an existing agreement or contract between the parties.
Can you sue someone for disclosing private information?
If someone is guilty of sharing private information without consent, it is possible for a victim to sue them for the damages caused. If the courts agree with a victim’s claim, they can award damages as a form of compensation for the distress caused, as well as any reputational or direct financial losses.
In addition to this, injunctions can be filed to prevent the publication, or further publication, of the information. The entire removal or destruction of the relevant material can also be ordered.
How else can you protect your private information?
There are a number of other grounds under which you can bring forward a claim if your private information has been used or shared without your consent. These include:
Breach of confidence
Laws surrounding breach of confidence centre on the principle that someone who is provided private information in confidence, or has somehow obtained confidential information, should not take unfair advantage of it.
As mentioned above, breach of confidence could be used where there is a pre-existing contract or relationship between the parties.
The Data Protection Act 2018 and UK GDPR are the primary data protection legislation for organisations that handle and process UK residents’ personal data. Individuals have extensive protections in relation to how their information is stored and processed.
Where the misuse of data classifies as a breach of UK GDPR, a victim may be able to make a GDPR data breach. This is something our specialist GDPR solicitors can support you with.
Protection from harassment
In certain scenarios, the misuse of private information can also result in criminal or civil liability if certain actions also amount to harassment. Harassment occurs where the behaviour is intended to cause alarm or distress.
What should you do if someone has misused your private information?
If someone has misused your private information, it is vital that you speak to a legal professional as soon as possible so that you can clearly clarify your legal position and what actions you may be able to take.
In the meantime, it is best practice to take various steps to protect you from any further harm. This will include changing your passwords to accounts, creating a security alter for any credit reports and initiating a security freeze.
To review your case and assess whether you have grounds to make a claim for the misuse of private data, or any other type of data breach claim, speaking to a specialist solicitor will be your best course of action.
How Hayes Connor can help if your information has been misused
If you have been the victim of the misuse of private information, our team may be able to help you in making a claim. We act for clients on a no win, no fee basis, removing the financial risk of pursuing claims related to data misuse and data breaches.
We are one of the largest teams of data breach claims specialists in the country, with a wealth of combined experience and expertise in supporting clients from a wide range of backgrounds. Our team can provide carefully tailored advice on whether you will have grounds to make a claim, the level of compensation you may be entitled to receive, and what steps need to be taken.
We want to ensure that anyone affected by the misuse of private information is able to access the compensation they deserve, while also making the entire process as straightforward and stress-free as possible.
You can find out more about our expertise and how we handle data breach claims here.
To start a claim, you can use our online claim form and we will get back to you shortly to let you know if we believe you have grounds for compensation.
If you would like to speak to a member of our team, please do not hesitate to give us a call on 0330 041 5139.