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Watchdog's bid as NI teen sues Facebook over nude pic

By Alan Erwin

Published 25/11/2016

A data protection watchdog could be set to feature in a landmark legal action over a naked photograph of a 14-year-old Northern Ireland girl being allegedly posted on a Facebook
A data protection watchdog could be set to feature in a landmark legal action over a naked photograph of a 14-year-old Northern Ireland girl being allegedly posted on a Facebook "shame" page

A data protection watchdog could be set to feature in a landmark legal action over a naked photograph of a 14-year-old Northern Ireland girl being allegedly posted on a Facebook "shame" page.

The High Court in Belfast heard yesterday that the Information Commissioner has requested documents in the claim against the social media giant.

A judge also listed the case for a week-long trial in September next year. In what is believed to be the first litigation of its kind in the world, the girl is suing Facebook and the man suspected of posting her photo.

Her lawyers allege the image was blackmailed from her and then published as a form of revenge porn.

The girl, who cannot be identified, is seeking damages for misuse of private information, negligence and breach of the Data Protection Act.

Her photo was said to have been posted on a so-called shame page on Facebook several times between November 2014 and January 2016.

Barrister Peter Girvan, instructed by McCann and McCann solicitors to represent the teenager, has likened it to a method of child abuse.

It is contended that Facebook had the power to block any republication by using a 'DNA' process to identify the image.

In September the company failed in an attempt to have the action dismissed at a preliminary stage.

At that stage a barrister for Facebook relied on a European directive, claiming it provides protection from having to monitor a vast amount of online material for what is posted on one page.

It was also stressed that the social network always respond to any reported breaches brought to its attention.

The picture was taken down as soon as notification was received, the court heard.

But the girl's legal team countered that putting up a naked picture of a 14-year-old should have been a "red line" issue for the company.

If the image had been blocked, all subsequent publications would have been avoided, they contended.

Following the failed attempt to halt proceedings, the case was mentioned again yesterday before Mr Justice Stephens.

He was told the Information Commissioner has asked for the statement of claim.

The development could lead to the watchdog applying to become involved in the action.

The judge also confirmed that he was setting aside five days to hear the trial.

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