So, I have a news story about violation of privacy...
May 19, 2008 11:05 AM   Subscribe

If a national news station publishes your home address on television without your consent, what is(if any) the recourse?

There was a news show recently that was doing a demo on a product. They used my husband's product for the demonstration. They advised him at the time that the address would be blanked out. Cut to showtime. Address very clearly legible. The broadcast was posted on website as well.

I've already made a call to the station, and have angrily advised them that this is not a very good thing, and that we are less than thrilled with the situation. Within an hour of calling, the video on the website was removed... but have not heard anything back from the station. We did not receive so much as an apology when we called initially.

I guess the question is, would you pursue it further? If the mods consider this to be chatfilter, please feel free to remove it, I just find the whole situation unsettling.

posted by irishkitten to Law & Government (9 answers total)
There was a news show recently that was doing a demo on a product. They used my husband's product for the demonstration. They advised him at the time that the address would be blanked out. Cut to showtime

I cannot make head or tail of what happened here. Can you tell us your story with a little more detail? I think people's answers will be different depending on whether this was infomercial journalism on your husband's product, investigative journalism on why your husband's product is dangerous, or anything else in between.
posted by gum at 11:18 AM on May 19, 2008

You should seek an on-air apology or at least a written one from the news director and network president. You should also, I guess, brace for letters... but I don't think you'll be able to file a monetary claim unless you can prove it caused duress.
posted by parmanparman at 11:19 AM on May 19, 2008

My apologies first, my response may seem insensitive - this is not to say that what the station did was justified or correct.

But in the way of responding/asking... aren't names/addresses public record? I was under the impression that with either a name or an address it's quite legal and easy to look up an address by way of public record/directory listing/etc. Personally, I've never had much difficulty finding information on random people I'm about to meet or need to know something about, including addresses/phone numbers, and the like. So it doesn't seem to me that the station did anything illegal.

However, whether their actions were ethical or were an invasion of privacy, seems to be a different matter. They certainly don't seem to be the champions of integrity (then again, how many people would characterize any mass media as such?) In any case... I hope you get a formal apology!
posted by s01110011 at 11:42 AM on May 19, 2008

Well... what's the recourse when the phone book prints your address?

Yeah, about the same. Sorry to say that, unless you signed a contract with the news show specifically detailing damages due should they publish your address, I'd think you're out of luck.
posted by shepd at 12:17 PM on May 19, 2008

Response by poster: First off, I should make a correction, it wasn't my husband's marketed product, I was initially being a little vague because the newscast was still up on the website. I should have changed that, that's my mistake. It was a gps system, and they used my husband's cell phone on tv to display the gps capabilities on it, and it pointed to our house, with the address linked to it.

Ehh, I'm not really looking for monetary, just wondered if I should pursue it more for the apology portion, or say to hell with it. And yes, s01110011, they would be, it was more the justification of doing so after advising him that it wouldn't be published. But should know better, there doesn't seem to be much in the way of integrity regarding this station, in fact when hubby initially told me about it, I half expected them to publish it anyway.

Thanks to those who responded. :)
posted by irishkitten at 12:41 PM on May 19, 2008

I don't think you have legal recourse, as I do think your address is a matter of public record. Also, it doesn't sound like you signed a release. So I suppose the best you can hope for is a letter of apology in which the station apologizes for the reporter's behavior when he told you something false about how they'd produce the video. I wouldn't hope too hard, though.
posted by Miko at 1:29 PM on May 19, 2008

Conversely, it's my understanding that many doctors are careful not to apologize for mistakes they may have made in treating patients, for fear that the apology will be used as an admission of guilt and culpability in court. If you're not getting an apology, it may be for a similar reason, the fear that you'll take the letter of apology to a lawyer as evidence that they're admitting legal responsibility.

I'm not a doctor or a lawyer, of course. I do sometimes write news stories, but I'm not speaking from any personal knowledge of the legal concerns of news organizations, just speculating.
posted by lore at 2:34 PM on May 19, 2008

I would ask for a formal apology and, if you're up to biting this bullet, letting them know in writing that you're not going to pursue legal action in lieu of said apology. That is, of course, if you really want the apology that badly.

Honestly, if it's only bothering you in the they really shouldn't have done it sense, then I don't think it's really worth anything more than what you've got from them already. If they're as sketchy as you make them seem, then I would say that you're not going to get anything from them unless you practically force it.
posted by Gular at 3:08 PM on May 19, 2008

Unless they did a freezeframe of your address long enough for someone to write the address down and think of something malicious to do to you, then I would chalk it up to poor editing and call it a day. Mistakes happen. If it really bothers you, write a letter stating your displeasure and more importantly, WHAT YOU WANT THEM TO DO. Send it registered. If you hear nothing from them after a week, do it all over again. It was a bad oops, but I don't think they did it on purpose.
posted by HeyAllie at 3:59 PM on May 19, 2008

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