2012-07-17 23:40:26

Intrusion is one of four privacy torts. The Second Restatement of Torts describes intrusion as entering upon the solitude of another of a kind that would behighly offensive to a reasonable person. It is the right ‘‘to be left alone.’’ Not all jurisdictions recognize intrusion as a basis for recovery in tort. The invasion for purposes of intrusion may be physical; intrusion may be analogous to trespass. It may include acts such as eavesdropping—that is, prying or snooping by hidden microphone—or peering into residential windows.

Intrusion must concern private affairs of the plaintiff’s. No liability exists for matters of a public nature, such as photographing people in public; however, publicity is not required. Additionally, intrusion must be intentional and the interference must be highly offensive; it need not be clandestine.

There are two views of intrusion. Under the first (see Nader v. General Motors Corp., 25 N.Y. 2d 560, 1970), intrusion covers activities that have as their end the gathering of confidential information such as opening a plaintiff’s mail. Under the second view found in the First Restatement of Torts, intrusion is more expansive. Plaintiffs are protected from repeated acts of surveillance, eavesdropping, and persistent phone calls. Overzealous (or ‘‘rough’’) shadowing can cross the line into intrusion.

Intrusion cases have resulted from violation of statutes. Federally, Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Street Act of 1968 prohibits intentional interception of wire or oral communications. Violators may be subject to criminal and civil actions. Some courts provide common-law protection of the same communications.


References and Further Reading

  • LaMarca, George A., Overintrusive Surveillance of Plaintiffs in Personal Injury Cases, American Journal of Trial Advocacy 9 (1985): 1–20.
  • Logan, David, Masked Media: Judges, Juries, and the Law of Surreptitious Newsgathering, Iowa Law Review 83 (1997): 161.
  • Restatement of the Law, Second of Torts, 2nd ed. St. Paul, MN: American Law Institute Publishers, 1965.
  • Speiser, Stewart M. Lawsuit. New York: Horizon Books, 1980.
  • Warren, Samuel D., and Brandeis, Lewis D., The Right to Privacy, Harvard Law Review 4 (1890): 193.

Cases and Statutes Cited

  • Nader v. General Motors Corp., 25 N.Y. 2d 560 (1970)
  • Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Street Act of 1968, 42 U. S.C. } 2510–2520

See also Privacy