The Massachusetts Right of Privacy Act is a state statutory law that codifies the common law right of privacy of Massachusetts residents, first recognized in Commonwealth v. Wiseman. The statute provides that a person shall have a right against unreasonable, substantial or serious interference with his privacy.
The right of privacy applies only to individuals and is not extended to corporations. Warner-Lambert Co. v. Execuquest Corp., 691 N.E.2d 545, 548 (1998). The statute’s protections were held to prevent the unauthorized disclosure of medical information by a health care provider. Tower v. Hirschhorn, 492 N.E.2d 728, 733 n. 10 (1986). Private actors and government actors are subject to an individual’s privacy interests.
Enforcement & Liability
The state’s superior court has been authorized with subject matter jurisdiction in equity to enforce the right of privacy.
A superior court hearing a civil lawsuit based on the right to privacy may award damages.
Employers that disclose an employee’s personal information may be in violation of the employee’s right of privacy. Courts have balanced an employer’s business interest in disclosure, against the intrusion on the employee’s privacy, to determine whether there is an actionable violation. There are a number of federal laws, including FMLA, ADA, HIPAA, that limit the employer’s ability to disclose an employee’s personal information. The Massachusetts Right of Privacy Act is relatively much broader and can apply to a much wider variety of personal information and circumstances of disclosure. Therefore, any disclosure of employee personal information should be limited to those authorized by the employee’s consent, emergency circumstances, required by law, or for routine business purposes.