California Privacy Act Guide
In legal terms, privacy can mean many things, including your right to prevent others from taking pictures of you in certain places or posting certain things about you. Or it may refer to your rights in relation to your personal data, including identifying information or identity theft. Here are the basics.
You should also see additional federal/state laws in ourUS privacy guide
1. General Privacy Issues
Privacy laws that do not fall into a specific category, such as identity theft, may fall into one or more of 3 general categories of privacy issues:
- Invasion after arrest: People have the right to protection against unreasonable intrusion into their solitude and private affairs
- Public disclosure of private facts: People have the right to protection from public disclosure of embarrassing or personal facts about their private lives
- false light: People have the right to be protected from advertising that misrepresents them
Use of a person's likeness (also known as a "publicity right")
The right to prevent others from using your likeness for commercial purposes is sometimes considered a privacy right, but is more of a "right of publicity". In general, you cannot use someone else's "likeness" with acommercial purpose(make money) without your permission.
"Likeness" generally includes likeness, voice, name, signature or anything else that identifies a particular person. This is called a "right of publicity" or "right against appropriation". For example, you cannot take someone's photo to use in an advertising campaign unless the person agrees to "release" those rights (usually for a price).
See more on ourBusiness Law Guide.
Notable exception:Exceptions to the "right of publicity" and privacy rights are when the matter is "notable" or of public interest.
2.Photography, filming and spying
Can other people photograph or record me?publicwithout my consent?
In California, yes, people can take pictures or videos of you in public, even if you don't like it. When you don't have a "reasonable expectation of privacy", including in most public spaces, almost everything you do can be photographed or recorded.1california penal code§§630–638;Sanders v. American Broadcasting Cos.(1999) 20 C4th 907
However, they cannot "commercialize" (monetize) your image without your consent. See more on our.
Can other people photograph or record me?privatewithout my consent?
In California, you have the right to be free from "invasion of privacy" and "unwarranted and unwanted publicity".2Gill contra Curtis Publ'g Co.(1952) 38 C2d 273, 278; See toowhite against davis(1975) 13 C3d 757, 775; Cal Const art I, §1
This usually means that people cannot take photos or videos of you in a "private" location without your consent. Whether a particular location is "private" or "public" depends on whether or not you have a "reasonable expectation of privacy" at that location. Please note that the legal definition of a reasonable expectation of privacy may not be the same as yours. In general, the interior of a house is considered private and possibly everything else is public.
Therefore, if you are in a public place, it is very likely that you will be recorded by other people. If you are in a private home, even oneAirBnB, it's probably trespassing and invasion of privacy if there are cameras recording you. But surveillance cameras outside the home are generally cool.
More precisely, it is illegalnaturalInvasion of privacy by entering a person's ground or airspace above ground without permission to take photos, videos, etc. (This is also considered a violation.)3Civil Code 1708.8(a)
Whether or not there is a physical invasion, it is also an illegal invasion of privacy to use a device, such as a telescopic lens, to take pictures of a person engaged in any "private, personal or family" activity.4Civil Code 1708.8(b)
What is the peeping tone law?
While on someone else's property without permission (which is illegal), it is illegal to look through the door or window of any occupied building.5Section 647(i) of the California Penal Code.
Also, even if you're legally on property, it's illegalTo lookthrough one eye or using a device such as binoculars or a drone (also known as a "drone system") to look into a room or location where someone expects privacy, with the intent of invading that person's privacy.6Penal Code 647;AB 1129 (2019)It is an additional crime to hidephoto or recordthis person.7California Penal Code Section 647(j)You can also sue people for violating your privacy in this way.8California Civil Code Section 1708.8
3. Privacy and Internet
See more about privacy and the Internet in ourInternet Law Guide
4.Privacy for consumers
See more about consumer privacy on our pageConsumer Law Guide.
5.privacy and conversations
Can people or companies record a phone call they have with me?
In California, it's generally illegalsecretlyrecord a private conversation with someone.9Penal Code 632To legally record a private conversation, both parties must agree. This rule is often referred to as the "law of two-party consent" or sometimes the "law of consent of all parties". BUT this does NOT apply to law enforcement (see law enforcement question below).
Often when you call a company's customer service line, you hear something like "This call may be recorded for quality or training purposes." Essentially, you agree to this recording by staying on your phone after listening to it. If you disagree, hang up.
Can people record face-to-face ("real-life") conversations?
The same rule for phone calls also applies to face-to-face conversations. You cannot legally record a private face-to-face conversation without the other person's consent.10Penal Code 632Again, this does NOT apply to law enforcement (see below)
Is wiretapping illegal in California?
Generally speaking, yes (except in law enforcement cases - see below). Under California's "All Parties Consent Act" all parties to a private conversation must consent to a recording. Eavesdropping or eavesdropping means listening and/or recording without the knowledge of either party, which is illegal.11Penal Code 631, 632
Can the police or other law enforcement agencies monitor my phone or record my conversations?
If they have a court order then yes they can.12Penal Code no. 629.88Law enforcement is subject to different rules about this than private individuals.
6.privacy and employers
What are my privacy rights vis-à-vis my employer?
In California, whether you are an employee or a prospective employee, your (potential) employer may not require or request that you disclose your username or password to any social media, email, text or other similar communication. Your employer also cannot ask you to access them in their presence to view them.13California. Article 980 of the Labor Code
exceptions: Your employer may do these things as part of a misconduct investigation or, if necessary, to access an employer-provided device.14California. Article 980 of the Labor Code
7.privacy and government
What are my privacy rights regarding the police/government?
You have the right to be free from "unreasonable" government or police searches on your body or anything you use, your home and certain other personal spaces.
See more on ourPolice Lawful Conduct Guide
Do my healthcare providers or other professionals have the right to share my health information with others without my permission?
Generally not. see ourHealth Legislation Guide.
Is it illegal to read someone else's mail without their consent?
Sim.See our US Privacy Law Guide.
What is identity theft and is it illegal?
Identity theft occurs when someone takes your personal information, such as your name, social security number or financial information, and uses it for illegal purposes. Identity thieves may try to open credit or loan accounts with your information, or generally damage your reputation. All of these are illegal in California.15Penal Code Article 530.5
exercise your rights
- If a crime has been committed against you, consult ourVictims' rights page
- Find privacy laws, civil rights or employment lawsAttorney
- For identity theft crimes, seeCalifornia Department of Justice website
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