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Privacy

Privacy is a person’s legally protected interest in preventing government or other intrusion into their homes; their communications (phone, e-mail, in-person); their luggage; certain compartments of their motor vehicle (glovebox, trunk); their personally identifiable information (PII); their body (hair, clothing, unexposed body parts); their image and likeness (through unauthorized use); and other information, places, and property (real and personal) in which persons have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

People generally do not have a right to privacy from being photographed or heard (if done without use of surreptitious electronic or other surveillance technologies) in public places—essentially, when they step outside of their home. There are exceptions to this general rule in which persons do have a right to privacy—such as in a doctor’s exam room or when making a phone call in a phone booth.

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects people against government intrusions into their privacy.

And state and federal laws (statutes and court opinions) generally protect persons from unauthorized use of their personal information and from intrusions into their privacy by nongovernmental persons or entities. These protected privacy interests are generally limited to areas in which persons have a reasonable expectation of privacy (home, health information, image and likeness, e-mail communications, etc.)—and these laws vary from state to state.

In Texas, privacy is recognized as a significant legal interest, protected from both government and non-governmental intrusions. The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides a foundational layer of protection against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government, which extends to areas where individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as their homes, personal effects, and certain communications. Texas law complements these protections with statutes that address specific privacy concerns. For instance, the Texas Penal Code prohibits the interception or access to electronic communications without consent. The Texas Identity Theft Enforcement and Protection Act provides safeguards against the unauthorized use of personally identifiable information. Additionally, Texas recognizes a common law right to privacy, which protects individuals from the public disclosure of private facts, intrusion upon seclusion, appropriation of name or likeness, and portrayal in a false light. However, in public spaces, there is generally no expectation of privacy, meaning that photography or recording without the use of hidden devices is typically permissible. Exceptions exist for areas where privacy is still expected, such as medical facilities or private conversations in public phone booths. It's important to note that while there is a broad protection of privacy, the specifics can vary and are subject to interpretation by courts.



Texas Statutes & Rules

Federal Statutes & Rules

Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Fourth Amendment is the primary constitutional protection against unlawful search and seizure, which underpins the legal concept of privacy in the United States.

The Fourth Amendment guarantees the right of people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures. It states that warrants must not be issued without probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and must particularly describe the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. This amendment forms the basis for the legal standard that individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their homes and personal effects, and it limits government intrusion into these areas.

Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA), 18 U.S.C. §§ 2510-2522
The ECPA protects wire, oral, and electronic communications while those communications are being made, are in transit, and when they are stored on computers.

The ECPA is divided into three parts: the Wiretap Act, the Stored Communications Act, and the Pen Register Act. The Wiretap Act prohibits the intentional interception of any wire, oral, or electronic communication. The Stored Communications Act addresses the voluntary and compelled disclosure of stored wire and electronic communications and transactional records held by third-party internet service providers. The Pen Register Act prohibits the recording or decoding of dialing, routing, addressing, or signaling information transmitted by an instrument or facility for the transmission of electronic communications without a court order. These statutes provide a framework for the protection of communications privacy.

Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. § 552a
The Privacy Act of 1974 establishes a code of fair information practices that govern the collection, maintenance, use, and dissemination of personally identifiable information about individuals that is maintained in systems of records by federal agencies.

The Privacy Act requires federal agencies to provide public notice of their records systems, restricts disclosure of personally identifiable information, grants individuals the right to access and amend their records, and sets forth various agency record-keeping requirements. Additionally, it mandates that agencies obtain information directly from the subject of the record when possible and protect the information against unauthorized access or disclosure.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), Public Law 104-191
HIPAA provides data privacy and security provisions for safeguarding medical information.

HIPAA includes the Privacy Rule, which sets standards for the protection of individuals' medical records and other personal health information by three types of covered entities: health plans, health care clearinghouses, and health care providers that conduct certain health care transactions electronically. The rule requires appropriate safeguards to protect the privacy of personal health information and sets limits and conditions on the uses and disclosures that may be made of such information without patient authorization. It also gives patients rights over their health information, including rights to examine and obtain a copy of their health records and to request corrections.

Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA), 15 U.S.C. §§ 6501–6506
COPPA imposes certain requirements on operators of websites or online services directed to children under 13 years of age, and on operators of other websites or online services that have actual knowledge that they are collecting personal information online from a child under 13 years of age.

COPPA requires that website operators post a clear and comprehensive privacy policy, provide direct notice to parents and obtain verifiable parental consent before collecting personal information from children under 13, allow parents to review their child's personal information and have it deleted, and provide parents the opportunity to prevent further use or online collection of a child's information. It also restricts how website operators can collect, use, and disclose information about children under 13.

Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 15 U.S.C. § 1681
The FCRA promotes the accuracy, fairness, and privacy of information in the files of consumer reporting agencies.

The FCRA regulates the collection, dissemination, and use of consumer information, including consumer credit information. It is designed to protect consumers from the willful and/or negligent inclusion of inaccurate information in their credit reports. It also restricts access to credit reports to those with a valid need and provides consumers with the right to know what information is in their file, the right to dispute incomplete or inaccurate information, and the right for consumers to obtain their credit score.