Social media privacy Facebook, You Tube, social photographs, video clips and privacy law

Social media lawyers – privacy

This social media lawyers privacy article is primarily concerned with the balance between social media privacy and the right of self expression. Social media privacy is guaranteed by the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms 1950 (“the Convention”) is primarily a negative obligation aimed at arbitrary state interference with the rights of the individual. The state is to abstain from interference with or respect the rights of the individual. However for the effective enforcement of the Convention it must also impose a constructive or positive duty by its nature. By that I mean Contracting Parties (the Convention is a treaty) are also required to adopt measures to prevent the interference with the rights of the individual either by the Contracting Party or by a third party within the jurisdiction of the Contracting Party. For example where a clause in a contract were to interfere with a fundamental human right then it would be unenforceable.  I got to thinking about the positive obligation imposed by  the Convention after coming across Sciacca v. Italy, no. 50774/99, 29, ECHR 2005-I again recently. To my mind, any obligation to protect a fundamental right must include the prevention of third parties from interfering with that right and  to actively promote access to enjoyment of that right by the holder.


 Sciacca v. Italy, no. 50774/99, 29, ECHR 2005-I


For those responsible for social media privacy policy who don’t know the case here are the facts of Sciacca v. Italy.  The case was originally brought by an Italian national, Mrs Camela Sciacca (CS) on 01 June 1999 against the Italian Republic lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention. Article 34 permits individuals to lodge cases under the Convention with the Court. Judgment was delivered by a chamber of seven judges. CS was a teacher at a private school in Lentini, Syracuse. The school was owned by G a limited liability company, of which, CS and three other teachers were members. In July 1998  a criminal complaint was lodged with the police about financial malfeasance in the schools finances. The police launched an investigation which included CS as a suspect. The police searched the company’s head office and the members homes including CS.  The police questioned CS pursuant to a charge of extortion, fraud and forgery. CS along with others was arrested and placed under house arrest. The police had compiled a file on her which included photographs and fingerprints and gave a press conference. Two newspapers published CS’s photograph four times on the 05 and 06 December 1998. Each time it was an identity photograph that had been taken by the police and released by them to the press. CS was tried and convicted.


 CS complained to the Court that the release of her photographs at the press conference was a violation of Article 8 of the Convention. The Italian government argued that CS’s Article 8 right was limited by the public’s right to be informed and by the aim of preventing further criminal offences. They also relied on Article 10 of the Convention. The Court found that there had been a violation of Article 8 of the Convention. In other words, the Court had found that private life includes elements relating to an individual’s right to their image. In the Sciacca  case the police had wrongfully released photographs of CS to the press, in breach of their negative and positive obligations to ensure CS’s right under Article 8 of the Convention.


In the same way, a person’s image in photographs or video clips stored online or offline does fall within the scope of Article 8 of the Convention. A third party posting the right holder’s  photograph without consent on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or other social media or discussion group would be a breach of the positive obligation imposed by Article 8 of the Convention which protects social media privacy. Further, the Contracting Party must guarantee that the right holder has access to the enjoyment of Article 8 of the Convention, when the right holder is unable to do it for him or herself; for example where a website is refusing to protect social media privacy by removing an offending image or video clip.


Social media lawyers privacy

Social media lawyers privacy


Article 8 of the Convention provides:

Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

There are therefore four expressly protected interests:


(i) private life;


(ii) family;


(iii) home; and


(iv) correspondence.


It is therefore clear that there is an explicit obligation not to interfere with any of the 4 expressly protected interests. But then the explicit obligation is subject to limitations. First interference may be justified as a result of a specific prescribed law and second the interference must also be necessary in a democratic society.

Article 8 then goes on to list matters as a result of which interference will be warranted by law and by necessity in a democratic society:


danger to national security;


risk to public safety;


risk to the economic well being of the country;


prevention of disorder;


prevention of crime;


protection of health;


prevention of morals; and


protection of the rights and freedom of others.




In other words, although the Article 8 right is not absolute the circumstances in which there can be interference with it are strict. Managers responsible for social media privacy policies should bear this in mind particular when deciding to use a photograph or video clip without consent.

Click to view video on social media and privacy law:

Please see our other articles on:

Right to be forgotten

Social Media Business 


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