What are my legal rights if my private photos are shared online?

Sharing personal photos with someone is an act that is done out of trust and usually comes with a mutual understanding that such pictures will be kept private.

Tuesday, 26th February 2019, 10:30 am
Updated Tuesday, 26th February 2019, 10:47 am
The police can take action if you believe someone has published, or is threatening to publish, personal photos online

But when relationships break down, some people often themselves victims of having their personal photos leaked.

Here David Newman, adviser at DAS Law, explains your legal rights if you find yourself subject to this type of unwanted attention.

If someone is holding personal photos to ransom and demanding money for them not to be published, this could constitute blackmail

What are your rights?

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The police can take action if you believe someone has published, or is threatening to publish, personal photos online. However, this would be dependent on the evidence available.

You can also contact the online platform to request they remove the content.

What is the best way to remove unwanted photos online?

After contacting the police to report the matter, you would then need to contact the owner of the website (the webmaster) to ask for the images to be removed.

If the images are hosted on several different websites, you may need to contact each webmaster individually.

Most social media sites allow you to report a user or inappropriate content directly, but you can also try to have the image removed from search engines, such as Google.

Images or videos of individuals under the age of 18 can be reported to ChildLine and the Internet Watch Foundation at contentreporting.childline.org.uk, who will try to get the content taken down for you.

However, make sure the police have concluded their investigation before taking action yourself.

Is it a crime if personal photos are being held ransom? Should I pay to retrieve them?

Yes, it is. If someone is holding personal photos to ransom and demanding money for them not to be published, this could constitute blackmail.

Blackmail is a criminal offence under section 21(1) of the Theft Act 1968 and is punishable by a maximum of 14 years in prison, depending on the amount of money demanded and the psychological harm done or intended to the victim.

It is not recommended that you pay any money to the person. The police should be contacted immediately and they will be able to take any necessary steps.

Can I press charges against people who have released, or threatened to release, my personal photos?

Yes, it is possible for the police to bring charges.

If the personal photos have been published, the police can press charges under section 33 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act.

If the person is threatening to release the photos unless you pay a sum of money, they could be charged with blackmail.

You could also potentially bring a civil claim for harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 against the person if there is a threat of publishing the images that amounts to a course of conduct (at least two occasions), and that threat causes you to suffer alarm or distress as a result.