Four Types of Invasion of Privacy

Updated March 23, 2017

Each state has laws that seek to balance an individual's privacy with public knowledge and freedom of the press. If media sources or news-seeking individuals encroach upon a person's private spheres, they may be charged with invasion of privacy. In written law and in civil court cases, states recognise four different forms of invasion of privacy.


The first type of invasion of privacy is intrusion. Intrusion occurs when a person invades another person's private affairs. If you record another person's private conversations without his knowledge, trespass onto a person's property or take intrusive photographs of a person, you are violating that person's right to solitude. Media and news sources have to be careful not to intrude on a public figure's private domain, otherwise the public figure can sue the media for invasion of privacy.

Public Disclosure

The second type of invasion of privacy is public disclosure of private facts. This form of privacy invasion occurs when someone publishes hurtful, embarrassing or offensive facts about a person's private life. If the media digs up private facts regarding a high-profile person and makes these facts public knowledge, the victim of the disclosure can sue the media for invasion of privacy. A court may find the media source guilty of invasion of privacy depending on how the media obtained the private information.

False Light

The third type of invasion of privacy is false light publicity, which occurs when someone produces false statements about a person or frames that person in a false light. If, for example, a writer embellishes, distorts or fictionalises a news story, he may place someone in a false light that distorts the truth. False light publicity is not the same as defamation; a person can condense or fictionalise a story without adding malicious intent to it.


The last type of invasion of privacy, appropriation of name or likeness, refers to the unauthorised commercial use of a person's name or image without his knowledge or approval. A company, for instance, cannot use a celebrity's name or image to endorse a product without the celebrity's consent. Generally, a court does not consider photographs in newsworthy stories, or incidental references to real people in books and films, as appropriation. If the media uses even part of a person's name without his consent, that person can sue the media.

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About the Author

Julia Drake has been writing since 2007 when she had her first article published in “The Beltane Papers.” She received her Bachelor of Arts in women studies from the University of Washington. She recently completed her Master of Arts in women’s spirituality at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology.