The Minnesota Court of Appeals held that the posting of information on a page, which was viewable by anyone with an Internet connection, constituted dissemination of information to the public even if only a few people actually saw it. Plaintiff, who was estranged from her husband, visited a medical clinic to obtain a screening for sexually transmitted diseases based on intercourse with a new partner. Defendant, an employee at the clinic and an acquaintance of plaintiff, became curious when she saw plaintiff and accessed plaintiff’s medical file. Defendant then passed the information on to second defendant, who was also an acquaintance of plaintiff and an employee of a related clinic. Plaintiff was subsequently identified on a web page, which posting included her picture and information that she was cheating on her husband and was getting checked for sexually transmitted diseases. Plaintiff filed suit against defendant for publication of private facts, among other claims. The lower court granted summary judgment on the invasion-of-privacy claim, finding that there was no “publicity” since plaintiff could only establish that six people had seen the Web site. On appeal, the Minnesota Court of Appeals found that publication of the information on a publicly available Web site did constitute “publicity” even if only a small number of people actually saw it, analogizing to a person publishing information in the newspaper which few people actually saw, or announcing it on the radio late at night when few people were listening. However, the court still ruled in favor of defendant, since the plaintiff could not establish that defendant posted the web page.

TIP: Keep in mind that when posting on a public Web site, anyone will be able to view the information, and if legal questions arise, courts are unlikely to view the posting as “private,” even if only a few people actually read the posting.