Is your private information being misused?

Posted: 12th January 2017

AppsSocial media sites bear social responsibilities and, if you are the victim of wounding online posts, you are not without legal protection. The point was powerfully made by one High Court case in which Facebook was ordered to pay £3,000 damages to a father whose private information was misused.

The loyalist flag protester was the subject of offensive and distasteful posts concerning, amongst other things, his alleged religious sectarian activities, his sexual orientation and his treatment of women. The man, known as J20, complained to Facebook, both in person and through solicitors, but the posts concerned were not taken down until 12 days after he obtained an injunction requiring their removal.

The Court found that the posts, although unattractive and unreasonable, were not so oppressive or unacceptable as to amount to harassment. Much of the information contained within the posts was also already in the public domain. However, references to the religion of the man’s children, and allegations that he was a police informer, constituted misuse of private information.

The Court acknowledged that Facebook was under no obligation to proactively monitor its site and that no liability arose prior to it obtaining actual knowledge of the misuse of private information. However, after complaints were received, it had failed to act expeditiously in removing the offending posts. The man was thus entitled to compensation in respect of the breaches and the undoubted injury to his feelings.