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How to proceed if my privacy is violated on the Internet?

Our fact sheet and templates will help you in such cases.

The answer in detail

A degrading photo on the net? Insults on Facebook?

Unfortunately, it's all too common for photos, comments, or reports to be published on the Internet that violate personal rights.

How is my privacy protected?

Every person has a constitutional right to respect for their private life and protection against misuse of their personal data. The aim of privacy and data protection law is to ensure that every person can decide themselves to the greatest extent possible regarding who should know what about them.

How am I protected on the Internet?

Even the Internet is not a lawless space. Various provisions of the Swiss Civil Code (SCC), the Swiss Data Protection Act (DPA), the Unfair Competition Act (UCA), and the Swiss Penal Code (StGB) provide protection against privacy violations on the Internet. As a rule, the consent of the affected person or an overriding public or private interest is required before information or an image can be published about this person on the Internet or in a newspaper, for example. No consent is required for images in which the person is not recognizable or if the person is just an “accessory,” i.e. part of the surroundings or an event and they must have expected such images to be taken (e.g. participation at a public event like an open air festival). Moreover, no violation of privacy rights is deemed to have occurred if the affected person published the image or information concerned themselves and did not expressly prohibit its further use.

The following questions are raised regarding privacy violations on the Internet:

  • Who is the author of the violation?
  • How did the image or information get on the Internet?
  • Was the image taken with the consent of the person portrayed?
  • Does the website where the unauthorized content was published have a special office/procedure for reporting and removing privacy violations?
  • What law applies and where do I file legal action?

What can I do to protect myself against a violation of my privacy?

Prevention is the best protection, in other words careful handling of your own data, even in an Internet age where it can be time consuming and costly to maintain sufficient privacy and control over your own personal data. If, however, someone else shares a picture of you, for example, then prevention is no longer an option and you can only react.

What if the author of the violation cannot be determined?

If the author is anonymous and cannot be found, then in the event of your privacy being violated you must turn to the website host where the offending content was published. Unfortunately, there are no clear rules regarding when and under what circumstances the provider must delete the content. Many providers respond quickly to such requests and voluntarily remove the content causing the violations. If the responsible person is abroad, it becomes more difficult to assert your rights.

What legal steps can I take?

If content is published on the Internet that is defamatory or violates privacy rights, then the affected person can take the following measures:

  1. Request the operator of the website correct, block, or delete the content;
  2. Claim damages provided financial loss was incurred;
  3. Possibly also file a criminal report.

If a fact is unjustifiably published in a periodically published medium (e.g. in an online magazine), there is also the possibility of a counterstatement (see also our article "What to do if untruths are spread about me in the media"). As a result of freedom of the press, there is only a right to a precautionary ban or removal of a publication if the publication can cause a particularly serious disadvantage, there is obviously no justification and the measure does not appear disproportionate.

What’s the best way to proceed?

Before you consider taking the matter to court, it is worthwhile to gather as many facts and as much evidence as possible regarding the content, scope, and author of the violation. Ultimately, the author (if known) and the provider must be warned in writing and requested to remove the offending content. For social media channels and blogs, there is often a special reporting office where people can report unwelcome content. We recommend sending the warning both through such an office and in writing by mail.

How do I word a warning?

We have produced a sample written demand to delete offending content of this nature for download below.

Important documents
Merkblatt und Briefvorlage Persönlichkeitsverletzende Beiträge