A right to privacy on social media

As we cannot physically meet up with family, friends and loved ones during Covid-19, a lot of us have turned to social media as an alternative way to connect. Whilst this has been helpful to many of us, social media can also have its downsides. Everybody has the freedom to post their personal opinions, how they feel and respond to other posts which can be seen by millions of other users. This can be quite dangerous, especially when it comes to protecting one’s privacy.

This was recently seen in the case of JQL v NTP [2020] EWHC 1349 (QB). The parties to the case remained anonymous.

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An aspiring lawyer claimed that her privacy was breached when her uncle had revealed to other relatives on Facebook that she had been having treatment for her mental illness and self-harming.

When taken to the court, the judge took into account several factors which included the nature of the information posted, the impact that this had on the claimant and her relationship with her family and her right of autonomy in respect of the post. In addition, the judge also considered the defendant’s actions in that he had aggravated the harm caused to the claimant. This was evident by the way the defendant had changed the case from one about mental health and self-harm into one about alcohol and drug misuse. Overall, the judge found that there was a “serious intrusion” into the Claimant’s privacy.

In what was seen as a landmark ruling, the court awarded the claimant £15,000 including general significant aggravated damages as well as an injunction. Whilst an injunction was not initially in her claim form, the claimant had threatened to apply for one prior.

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It is clear from this case that privacy should be respected on social media, particularly when it comes to sensitive issues like mental health and disclosing personal medical information. The best advice to give when it comes to social media is to always think twice before posting. How could your post be interpreted? Could your post be harming someone’s privacy? Is there a better way to word this?

As we all remain in lockdown and are constantly on our devices, these are good questions to take away. Privacy law is still evolving but we can always do our part in ensuring that what we post is valid and appropriate.

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For more information on JQL v NTP [2020] EWHC 1349 (QB), please visit the following website:

https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/2020/1349.html

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Front Row Legal are a boutique law firm that specialises in Sport, Media and Business Law in England and Wales. They have specialist knowledge in these areas of law, which means they can help where many law firms won’t have the experience. They are based in Leeds with a national client base. frontrowlegal.com