Sharing Private Information Without Consent

Did you know that there can be serious consequences for sharing someone’s private information without their consent?

Canada’s Criminal Code says that it is a criminal offence to publish or share an intimate image of someone without their consent. Alberta’s Protecting Victims of Non-Consensual Distribution of Intimate Images Act says that it is a tort to distribute an intimate image of another person knowing that the person did not consent to the distribution, or if you are reckless about determining whether or not the person depicted consented to the distribution.

In the Law Now article “Alberta Court Adds New Tort about Protecting Private Information”, lawyer Jessica Steingard describes the additional tort of public disclosure of private facts. Private facts covered by this tort may include the sharing of private images without consent, but may also include sharing other types of private information.  Private information covered by this tort can include any aspect of a person’s private life if the information was: (1) shared publicly; (2) without consent; (3) where the material published would be highly offensive to a reasonable person in the same position of the person whose information was shared; and (4) where there is no legitimate public concern in the information.

A common example is a personal intimate photograph exchanged between partners during a relationship, which is then shared by one partner without the consent of the other partner as an abusive tactic within the relationship or as “revenge” after the relationship ends. A person found guilty of this tort may be liable to pay “damages” (money) to the victim of the tort. In a recent Court of Alberta case referenced in Jessica Steingard’s article, damages exceeded $180,000.