How to prepare

Protecting personal privacy is vital for any high net worth individual, in or out of the spotlight. The amount and type of accessible information about them can adversely affect both their reputation and privacy. To protect high net worth individual’s information, greater control needs to be taken over their information in advance of it being created, leaked, tweeted, uploaded or posted.

Whilst legal steps can be taken to protect privacy before its disclosure, once private details are “out there” and accessible to others, it is much harder to get it back, especially if someone like a journalist, hacker, blackmailer, troll or trouble maker has it. Prevention is better than the cure.

Here is a checklist of tips which you may wish to share with your clients and any high net worth beneficiaries you work with to help them protect their privacy.

Checklist

Key decisions

Decide how much to share

Make sure that those, especially children, who use social media and other websites and platforms are aware of what is openly available to see and take, particularly photographs, and adjust social media settings or remove content or impersonation accounts accordingly.

Using technology

Be aware of the risks when texting, skyping and synching the photographs and content created on iPhone to iCloud. Use effective passwords, keep track of devices and never send something to someone you would never want them to keep.

Communicating online

Be aware of the risks when communicating with those you do not know online and the potential for others to record your interactions on webcam as well as responding to malicious emails from unrecognised email addresses.

Access to information

Carry out or commission an online audit to review the amount of information about you accessible in the public domain and its sources and understand how your information moves through any associated organisation, like a family office. Take legal advice on removing anything unwanted and change processes to close up gaps.

Manage information

Maintain and monitor your website and Wikipedia page, particularly for new additions to it and take legal advice on trying to remove new, adverse content before doing it yourself. Consider legal advice on PR statements, interviews and campaigns.

Appoint a team

If you have concerns about press interest in you, appoint a team to deal with press enquiries in the right way, including PR advisors with the right specialisms and contacts for you and media lawyers who are easily contactable with strong press connections who can advise you on defending against the press.

Challenging situations

Investigations or interviews

Impose conditions of confidentiality when attending voluntary interviews or assisting with investigations and obtain agreement in order to establish obligations of confidence. If there is a threat to disclose involvement, take urgent legal advice on preventing that.

Divorce

Plan a chronology of the proceedings and the issues involved and take advice on what is accessible to the press and when and what is not accessible and private. If your information has been taken from you and your devices, consider obtaining a court order to prevent your ex-spouse using and disseminating it. Apply for hearings to be heard in private or with reporting restrictions in place, particularly in relation to financial issues. Take preventative steps to stop the press publishing private information and obtain confidentiality undertakings upon settlement.

Court cases

Take legal steps to prevent unrelated third parties, like the press, obtaining case documents without your knowledge during the process, protect the court file and file documents selectively if possible. Consider whether confidential issues can be heard in private and resist applications by the press for sensitive documents before trial to avoid a trial by media. Ensure fair and accurate reporting of proceedings.

Death

Consider the risk of the press intruding into the loss of a loved one and the information which could be publicised as part of any inquest into the cause of death and take advice on minimising that accordingly. Request that the press deal with such issues sensitively in accordance with their regulatory obligations

When a crisis hits

A crisis whereby others seek to damage your client’s or a beneficiary’s reputation can arise in many forms; be it a journalist, broadcaster or other actor threatening to publish defamatory allegations or private/confidential information; or a blackmail threat from an anonymous troll or axe grinder, a hacker stealing information, criminal or regulatory investigations, harassment by an aggrieved ex-partner, the paparazzi or business partner as well as dirty tricks campaigns.

Considering the issues ahead and preparing in advance, helps prevent or mitigate a future crisis. In the event that a crisis does hit a client or beneficiary, we recommend that immediate steps are taken to contact an appropriate legal advisor so that proactive and preventative measures can be put in place. There are also steps that can be taken post crisis to repair and contain damage, claim compensation, obtain an apology or remove content.