Ideology, social control, and the private facts tort


University of British Columbia

Date Issued


Document Type



Master of Laws - LLM




This thesis involves an ideological examination of the Tort of Invasion of Privacy as it has been developed in United States case law, focusing specifically on the private fact component of the tort. The object of inquiry is to examine the extent to which dominant social structures, specifically gender bias and heterosexism, are reinforced and recreated by judicial constructions of the line between private and public facts. To this end the research begins with a theory component which places the law of privacy within the historically and socially contingent dynamic between state, society and the legal system. Having established privacy as a dominant ideological component in the make up of the American legal system, the thesis then turns to case analysis to establish the assertion that the tort, created at a time of considerable societal instability, has operated to restrict and control the behaviour of women, by denying privacy protection to those who step outside of acceptable social roles. The thesis then turns to consider the nature of heterosexism and the manner in which this dominant societal ideology has been interpreted and filtered through the tort, so as to exclude privacy protection to those who do not conform to heterosexual norms, and to grant it to those who keep their (nonheterosexual) sexual identities silent. In short, the thesis attempts to locate the tort in the context of changing social structures, and to examine the manner in which it has operated at an ideological level. Use of this framework allows for an alternative interpretation of the case law, and questions the seemingly neutral face of privacy law both within the common law context and in other fields.

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