Public persons play a certain role in public life, whether this is in politics, the economy, the arts, the social sphere, sports or other domains. Public persons are politicians and other public figures, such as athletes, actors, supermodels, businessmen and other celebrities.

Level of privacy

The activities of public persons usually attract the wider interest of society, especially with regard to political issues. Public persons are more exposed to the eyes and ears of society and have to accept wider scrutiny than private individuals.

In certain special circumstances, society’s right to be informed can even extend to aspects of the private life of public figures. However, that does not mean that public persons do not enjoy protection of their image and, accordingly, their private lives. Still, they have to tolerate a lower level of privacy than ordinary persons.

Right to private life vs. freedom of expression

When pictures of public persons are taken and published, the publisher, usually the media, exercises its freedom of expression in order to achieve a legitimate aim – informing society about situations of public interest and promoting discussion within society. Nevertheless, the proportionality and necessity for the use of the image should be examined in each individual case.

Has your image been used lawfully?

See the questions below to evaluate whether your image has been used lawfully and whether your privacy has been sufficiently respected. If, in your situation, the answer to one of these questions is negative, your privacy may have been violated. In such a case you have the right to complain. Read more about how to complain.

Is it allowed by law?

The use of your image should have a basis in law. For example, as stipulated in the Personal Data Protection Act, the media are entitled to publish information of general interest, including photos of individuals if these images could promote discussion on important issues in society.

If the use of your image is not permitted by law, your right to private life may have been violated. There is then no need to examine the other questions.

Does it serve a legitimate aim?

The use of your image has to be aimed at the protection of other legitimate interests. These legitimate interests may, for example, be:

  • your identification for state institutions and private entities
  • press and media freedom
  • other persons’ right to information
  • freedom of art
  • prevention, investigation and prosecution of crime etc.

If the use of your photo does not serve a legitimate aim, your right to private life may have been violated. There is no further need to examine the necessity and proportionality of the use of your image.

Is it necessary?

The use of your image should be necessary and suitable for the achievement of the legitimate aim. The information gathered has to be important and relevant to achieve the aim of the use of image. Additionally, no other alternative and less restrictive methods should be available to achieve the legitimate aim. For example, was it possible to inform society, but protect your private life, by publishing a report without the image?

Is it proportionate?

Both competing interests – your right to control the use of your image and the legitimate interests of the state or other persons - have to be balanced against each other, and a fair balance must be found. There have to be sufficient arguments why the interests of others outweighed your rights and the other way around in the particular case.

Various aspects should be assessed within the balancing process. Read more about proportionality below.

Human Rights Guide

A European platform for human rights education