Invasion of Privacy

The Social Media Age has created a world of profound interconnectivity and interpersonal discourse has never been easier. Along with this ease, however, is the vast potential for the abuse. We approach invasion of privacy matters through four channels.

Contact us to discuss your factual situation and legal options

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Consultation

Defamation? Disseminationof private photographs? Precisely how Au, LLC may help you will depend on a variety of factors. At no cost and with no overriding obligation, you can speak with one of our attorneys to discuss your situation and what we might be able to accomplish for you.

Our legal representation, regardless of its scope, must be preceded by an evaluation of your factual situation.  We will need to review the following:

What happened?

The scope of your recourse will be determined by what was said or what was done. Though we are proficient in addressing matters involving defamation, an invasion of privacy, misappropriations of likeness, and publications of private facts, whether what you have experienced falls into one of those categories (or some other applicable cause of action) must be evaluated against prevailing common law qualifications.

When did it happen?

Causes of action which may be available to you each has a time limit by which it must be acted upon. Further, parties from which we may need to elicit information (e.g., internet service providers) retain such information only temporarily. If what you have experienced occurred too-far in the past, your ability to identify the perpetrator or pursue him/her may be jeopardized.

``Where`` did it happen?

Location of activity affects your legal options.  The internet is filled with forums – message boards, Facebook pages, and Twitter, to name a few – in which objectionable activity may occur.  As each forum/website is operated by a different entity with its own protocol for responding to investigatory efforts, where the objectionable activity occurred can determine the overall cost of our remedial efforts.

Evaluate

An evaluation of the previous considerations will allow us to: (i) determine what, if anything, we may be able to accomplish for you; and (ii) where warranted, provide you a detailed remedial strategy and cost thereof.

Identification

Strong federal legislation – the Communications Decency Act, Stored Communications Act, etc. – generally insulates websites from liability due to third-party communications and prohibits them from disclosing content. However, legal tools exist by which non-content information – often identifying information – may be uncovered.

In the event the invasion of privacy has been conducted anonymously, steps must be taken to first determine who the perpetrator is. This process generally comprises the following:

Evidence Collection

We first start with a thorough analysis of all email, website, text, and other media in which the activity at issue occurred. The specifically-actionable statements, content, and conduct are isolated, and the parties involved – website operators, email providers, phone companies, and intermediaries – are identified.

Pre-suit Discovery

Available in most jurisdictions, equitable actions for discovery (aka, bills of discovery) are pre-lawsuit tools whereby a party with some colorable action can get before a court, issue subpoenas, and have orders entered by which the party can elicit information from website operators, email providers, and other organizations which have information related to the anonymous perpetrator(s)

Iterative Steps

Once filed, a bill of discovery may go through iterations by which the perpetrator’s onion of anonymity is peeled. A website may disclose a cryptic email address leading us to amend the bill of discovery to involve the email provider. The email provider may then disclose an IP address leading us to again amend the bill of discovery to involve the internet service provider operating the IP address. A typical bill of discovery goes through two to three iterations.

Uncover the Perpetrator

The ultimate goal is to arrive at an IP address belonging to a residence or predictable place of business. An ISP will usually inform the account holder (often the perpetrator himself or someone sufficiently-recognizable to identify the perpetrator) of the pending subpoena and give the account holder time to file a motion to quash the subpoena requesting the final identifying information. Such motions are rarely filed and even less often successful. Armed with the formerly-anonymous perpetrator identity, we can proceed with remedying the situation.

Defense

Websites generally have no obligation to remove defamatory or offensive content, and courts are loath to compel them to do so. Once discovered, the anonymous perpetrator must be coerced to remove his objectionable statements, one way or another.

Whether the individual(s) responsible for the invasion of privacy was initially known, suspected, or identified after our efforts via a bill of discovery, having content removed or recovering for injuries suffered therefrom (i.e., reputation defense) can be accomplished by the following:

Case Reevaluation

Armed with our initial evaluation of your case, the evidence we have collected, and the identity of the suspected perpetrator, we re-evaluate your path forward. While the “goal” of our efforts may always have been to, say, remove objectionable content from a website, how to accomplish this is a function of many variables.

Correspondence

In some circumstances, mere correspondence with the perpetrator can be enough to have the matter resolved. This can occur through phone calls or formalized letters.

Lawsuit

Though perhaps a last resort, where the perpetrator is unresponsive and faces substantial liability, circumstances may warrant initiating a lawsuit predicated on one or more causes of action.

Termination

Whether our efforts are dedicated to resolving the matter through pre-litigation tools or after taking the perpetrator through the court system, we work to have content removed, statements retracted, and finances recouped.

Recovery

Once the perpetrator is dealt with, we work with you to help clean up the mess; namely, removing remnants of the offensive conduct and content which linger throughout cyberspace.

The internet is slow to forget.  Despite any resolution of the matter, cached web pages and search results can allow objectionable statements and evidence of the invasion of privacy to remain available to friends, family members, and current and potential employers, inhibiting reputation recovery.  Complete reputation recovery generally involves the following:

Enforcement

In the event any matters were litigated and resolved in your favor, we follow through with the websites and media companies on which the offensive conduct occurred and ensure that each complies with any extant court order.

Reverse SEO

Even when material is taken down from websites and blogs, cached versions may appear in search engine results until automatic systems remove the dead links. We can help expedite this process.

Settlement Monitoring

Settlement agreements entered into at the resolution of litigation may involve continued surveillance of the perpetrator’s activity to ensure compliance.

Reputation Management

Reputation management firms can ameliorate lingering search engine problems by reducing the return rate of disparaging search results. We partner with organizations dedicated to providing such services.

FAQ

While the pragmatic scope of our services depends entirely on each client’s particular circumstances, there are certain matters which are common to nearly all clients’ inquiries. This FAQ covers basic issues concerning libel, slander, and privacy invasion situations.

What types of activity have you dealt with?

We have dealt with cases involving impostor Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, impostor Tumblr accounts, anonymous and threatening email communications, disparaging “cheater” and dating website profiles, blogs, and internet message boards; virtually any type of forum in which a malcontented individual can post pictures and make statements dedicated to ruining another person’s reputation.

Who are the typical culprits?

In our experience, approximately two-thirds of the activity of which our clients have complained was caused by a former romantic partner or close associate thereof. Less common, though potentially more damaging, is activity resulting from a devolved business relationship. While all of the activity is certainly willful, it is often conducted by persons who fail to appreciate just how ubiquitous the content can become and how much damage it causes.

What are the costs involved?

Our fees for resolving internet and social media quandaries vary, and there is no one-size-fits-all arrangement. Straightforward pre-litigation efforts may be performed for a few hundred dollars and often on a flat-fee basis. In contrast, more investigative and protracted efforts may require a traditional retainer and hourly billing with the total expenditure being proportional to the time spent on the case ($2,000 – $3,000 is not uncommon).  It cannot be overstated, however, the every client is differently-situated and a reasonable cost projection can only be based on each client’s particular factual circumstances.

What does success look like?

Success for our clients is generally comprised of some type of content being removed from some type of web page. Because the removal of content almost invariably requires action on the part of the perpetrator, his/her identification is essential. Monetary recovery may be possible, but usually only through traditional litigation.