Is It Illegal To Post Screenshots Of A Private Conversations
There is no rule governing the snapshot itself – and it may not be required – but there are many regulations governing the content of the picture. Re-sharing shared material that was previously accessible for everyone to view should not be an issue in the eyes of the law – except in the case of copyrighted pictures. Sharing a screenshot of a picture or a newspaper article might theoretically get you into trouble. In reality, though, a newspaper or photographer is unlikely to sue you if you post a newspaper story or picture on Facebook. On a site, though, the cost might be substantial… Bots that scan the web for pictures unlawfully posted on private sites are becoming more popular among professionals. However, the true issue may emerge in the eyes of the law when a screenshot is used to reveal a private discussion without the permission of the interlocutor.
Everyone in Belgium has the right to privacy, which includes the confidentiality of communication. In theory, distributing an excerpt of a private discussion, whether public or not, requires the permission of the interlocutor or interlocutors. There may be a violation of that person’s privacy if one of the parties has not agreed. Then there’s the possibility of being sued and having to pay restitution.
The General Regulations for the Protection of Personal Data (RGPD), which regulates the issue at the European Union level and which applies in Belgium, are added to this. It only includes the exchange of personal data in a business or professional setting, including private discussions. The European Court of Justice, on the other hand, has decided that the distribution of personal data on the Internet extends outside the domestic realm once the information is made accessible to everyone, i.e. an infinite number of individuals. As a result, if a snapshot of a discussion is published publicly on social media sites like Twitter or Facebook, the GDPR must be considered.
Although it is unlikely that the right to correspondence confidentially would be claimed when an interlocutor publishes a snapshot of a shared discussion with others, it is nevertheless important to be alert. Furthermore, it is not required that the injured party be identified, since the substance of the discussion may prejudice a third party, damage honor, or violate the right to non-discrimination in private life (comment homophobic, racist, anti-Semitic, sexist,). You may be entitled to compensation in proportion to the harm you have suffered in some manner.
Let’s suppose your closest buddy informed you on WhatsApp that he had cheated on his spouse, and you later gave the individual a snapshot of the discussion. This scenario may seem insignificant, but the harm you have caused to your (ex-) buddy may result in legal action since you have invaded your interlocutor’s privacy. However, nothing in the law would have stopped you from warning your girlfriend by rephrasing; the issue is the photographic copy of the private discussion.
If you disrespect your employer in a private text message to one of your colleagues, you will face the same consequences. If your employer sees a screenshot of that awkward discussion, nothing will stop them from firing you. You may, however, sue your coworker for sharing the substance of your conversations without your permission, as well as for putting you in danger.
It may be illegal to disclose information on a contractual basis in a professional setting. Frequently, the employment contract contains provisions about the company’s image. As a result, sharing professional emails without the permission of each person may get you in hot water.
There are many instances of this kind of offense, and the punishments imposed will be proportionate to the victim’s damage. As a result, you should be very cautious while sharing screenshots.
Re-sharing a tweet, a Facebook message on an open account, or publicly accessible material, on the other hand, presents no danger in principle.
There are several exceptions.
There are, of course, exceptions. What if the aim of posting a screenshot of a chat is to seek justice in the face of harassment, for example? This is still a point of contention. A person who has been publicly incriminated but has no legal background may possibly bring a slander and defamation case.
According to Jean Herve, a professor and researcher in digital law at Namur and a lawyer, we must consider the following approach to combat harassment: “The first piece of advise we usually offer individuals is to register a harassment report with the police. Unless, of course, we’re speculating on a battle against the law of silence. In such situation, legal counsel should be sought to guarantee that freedom of speech is exercised effectively and without causing harm,” he adds.
In fact, nothing is legally established, thus navigating between freedom of speech and privacy protection will always be required. Correspondence concealment may give way to a greater justifiable interest. As a result, an evaluation must be made. “I completely see why someone would want to share a screenshot for justice, but the issue is whether it is the most effective method,” Jean Herveg adds.
Furthermore, if the public authorities have already been informed of the wrongdoings that we wish to report, but nothing is done, we must be able to “shake the coconut palm,” “to let everyone know what has happened, to create public pressure, and to have the authorities start and recognize the wrong,” explains the lawyer. We then fall into the notion of blatant unfairness that no one can correct; according to him, “freedom of speech is also utilized for that.”
However, there is an exemption for public personalities. They are not afforded the same level of private protection as the ordinary person, as long as their public actions justify it. This is also true in the other situations discussed in this article. It is more readily acceptable to do so in situations when publishing screenshots of them contributes to public discussion. But only if it stimulates public discussion. Defamation is still a crime.
Regardless, the heinous acts detailed in this essay are, ironically, all too common in today’s social media and messaging platforms.