Is It Illegal to Post Screenshots of Conversations?

Is It Illegal to Post Screenshots of Conversations?

This guide will provide you with all of the information that you need to know whether or not it is illegal to post screenshots of conversations that you have had.

Is It Illegal to Post Screenshots of Conversations?

It can be – but in any case, you should not do it without special permission from the sender.

If you take a screenshot of a private message and distribute it within your capacity as an employee or business owner, for example, then it will most likely constitute a privacy breach, and the business or organization may be held liable.

It is possible, however, for it not to constitute a privacy breach. If you screenshot a private message as a private citizen, then you likely will not breach the Privacy Act.

In short, this is likely because the Privacy Act typically does not apply to domestic affairs.

Many think that someone could successfully sue them for defamation of character in scenarios like this.

This, however, is a farce. The only way they could gather a successful claim for defamation of character would be if you published false information about someone.

It is impossible for you to defame someone just by posting something they have already sent you unless you reply with untrue messages and go on to lower someone’s reputation seriously.

Just because there are private messages between two people, this does not create an automatic right to privacy.

Is it Illegal to Screenshot Conversations?

Not exactly. If you are screenshotting someone’s message from the messaging application, it is likely that you will be okay. However, screenshotting a Snapchat conversation could possibly land you two years in prison.

In the United Kingdom, it is illegal to screenshot a Snapchat message and share it without the consent of the sender.

Anyone who screenshots a Snapchat message and shares it with other individuals can be sued by the original sender.

Further, anyone who passes on sexual photos without asking the person who took the photo could face an additional prison sentence.

Pictures that you send on Snapchat are automatically deleted after 10 seconds maximum; however, it is possible to save a copy of a photo you’ve received if you screenshot the image before it is deleted.

Snapchat’s privacy policy describes that if they detect a recipient has screenshotted a picture, they will attempt to inform the original poster.

Nonetheless, Snapchat still advises users not to send messages that they wouldn’t prefer to be saved or shared.

This law does not ONLY apply to Snapchat, however. Under UK copyright law, it would be illegal for any use of any social media platform to take someone else’s photo and republish it to the public without permission.

In the UK, the maximum sentence for copyright infringement is ten years in prison with an “unlimited” fine.

Can You Sue Someone for Sharing Private Messages?

Yes. The law does not allow individuals to share someone’s personal information without their consent. In other words, you cannot post or distribute anything that was sent to you in private.

In certain situations, you may be able to get special compensation for damage done.

If you have text messages between two individuals, you have the right to read them.

You can forward messages unless there is a private agreement to not share the contents of the text messages with another person.

However, certain subjects are viewed in a different light. In these scenarios, it is generally assumed not to pass on that specific information. Technically, however, someone could forward the text messages to another person and simply not say anything.

In very specific situations, like with doctors and patients, it is illegal to share messages sent between the two.

However, if this is simply a conversation between two friends, you can legally share the messages in most cases. The only exception is if there is a contract or agreement between the two people that say you can’t.

Depending on your job, you could be fired for sending private emails or texts to someone else.

In a work setting, employers commonly monitor emails along with other forms of communication to look out for any irregular or unethical behavior.

This means if they find someone has been sending private emails to other people that shouldn’t be involved, they can be both fired and sued for invasion of privacy.

The reasoning behind this is that emails are considered personal documents. You do not have the right over them.

There are various reasons why you would possibly want to send a text message you have received to a third party.

It is possible that you think the message itself is important enough to share with other people. Perhaps you just want to see what the other person said. Despite whatever reason you have, you have to ask yourself if what you’re doing is legal.

It is perfectly lawful to screenshot someone’s message and send it elsewhere. However, you have to make sure that the second party consents to that message being delivered elsewhere.

If these people disagree with you sharing their message with someone else, you can be held liable for damages.

Can A Private Conversation Be Used Against You?

Yes. This can happen without you even giving consent. These audio or video recordings can be used as admissible evidence in UK courts.

The Court does have the authority to exclude some evidence, however, per Rule 32.1 of the Civil Procedure Rules.

The Judge himself would have to undertake a balancing test so that he could determine what is fair between getting to the truth and restricting recordings that were not gained properly.

RIPA prohibits the product of something that was received unlawfully from being admissible in court. This, however, differs slightly in civil cases.

It is possible that some judges might take a pragmatic approach that the information is already disclosed and highly relevant to the matter at hand.

If the record has been obtained either illegally or unfairly, then a party can attack this through alternative means. They can do this outside of the proceedings, like claiming for breach under the Data Protection Act.

Further, through this, they could request a claim for damages suffered due to the recording being shared.

There is no clear answer through the law regarding using a recording of a conversation as evidence. The basic principles that should be followed involve consent for the recording and the risks behind using and relying on a recording as evidence.

What Can I Do If Someone Shares a Screenshot of a Private Message?

It honestly depends on your capacity in relation to the individual who shared the screenshot initially.

For example, if you are over a company and an employee shares a private message and then further distributes it, their actions will likely constitute a privacy breach. This can, in turn, cause the business itself to be held liable.

A great example of that involves a credit union that is found to have breached the Privacy Act following managers taking a screenshot of someone’s private Facebook post and then distributing it widely throughout the community.

This occurred in 2015. As reparation, the Human Rights Review Tribunal awarded the woman $168,000 in damages.

Other Ways to Keep Records of Conversation Rather Than Screenshotting

Screenshotting messages can get you in a bit of legal trouble if you share them with other individuals. There are, however, ways around these screenshot rules. They are listed below.

1. Download Data (this is possible for Messenger, Instagram, and Snapchat)

You can download your personal data for various applications. Examples include Messenger, Instagram, and Snapchat.

Downloading data from a social media application allows you to access your personal data and download information like your profile and anything associated with it, your activity history, and your application settings.

For example, Instagram has a Data Download tool that allows you to request a file including your photos, comments, profile information, and possibly more that you might need.

If you want to access your personal Data Download tool, check the Privacy and Security section of your Instagram settings.

This process, however, is password-protected. This means that unless you give someone else your password, you will be the only individual allowed to request your data.

After you have requested your file, it will be available for download for a few short days.

Instagram provides the downloaded data in a machine-readable format in case you want to transfer it to another device.

You can also download your Facebook Messenger data history. Follow these steps to learn how:

1. Open your Facebook account.

2. Click on the small triangle in the top right corner of your screen to access Settings.

3. Click “Your Facebook Information.”

4. Click “Download a copy of your information.”

5. This page allows you to select the data you want to download from Facebook. First, click “Deselect All.”

6. Tick the box in the messages section to download your chats only.

7. Click “Create File” in the top right corner.

8. Once your chats are ready for download, Facebook sends you a notification. Click it to access the download summary.

9. Click Download to save a copy of your Facebook chats on your device.

10. Additionally, you can download your Google Data. It is important to note, however, that if you download your Google data, it does not delete it from Google’s servers.

You can export and download your data from various Google products that you use. For example, you can download your data from emails, documents, calendars, and photos.

You can also download data about YouTube videos and data regarding your registration and account activity.

To keep your personal records or use your data in another service, you can create another archive.

If your actions appear risky to Google, in order to protect your account, you may not be able to do some things, or they may be delayed.

Go to the Download your data page. Google products that have your data are automatically selected.

If you do not want to download a product’s data, uncheck the box beside it. If you only want to download a portion of your data from a product, you might possibly have the option to select a button as All data included. Then, select the next step.

Google will then email you a link to the location of your archive. The length of the process depends on the amount of information in your account.

Google follows a process described in Google’s Privacy Policy in order to remove the data safely and completely.

2. Ask Phone Provider

Normally, text conversations occur between two separate cell phone accounts. The privacy of each account holder is protected heavily by cell phone carriers.

You might feel obligated to access copies of text messages from your phone, and your provider is obligated to protect the privacy of the other individual in the conversation.

Therefore, in order to retrieve text messages from your phone provider, you may have to obtain a court order.

It is important that you request these records quickly after they are shared, however. Many major cell phone providers hold records of text messages sent and received by account holders. This information is not held in a file forever, however.

Most providers only keep this information for a couple of weeks maximum.

Before you have the court order issued, call your cell phone carrier’s customer support service to ensure that the service you need is available.

File your case with the local court. You cannot obtain a court order until you have a case on file.

After you have your case, let your attorney know that you have text message evidence. Then, either he or she will file a motion with the judge over the entire case.

However, it is unlikely that the petition will be granted unless the text messages are specifically relevant to the case.

Many carriers allow you to get your message history in some capacity by accessing their website. This may require you to make an online account.

After you access your personal account, you will likely be able to access options regarding your call and text message history.

3. Ask Them For Permission to Screenshot or Screen Record

It is possible that the individual would give you permission to screenshot or screen record the conversation.

The only way you will know if this person would be comfortable with you sharing your conversations, however, is if you ask them. They very well may grant you permission to share this information. Some people don’t care about things like that.

This information is private and protected by law. Just make sure you ask permission. Don’t be shy; you may be surprised at the response.


It may indeed be illegal to share private conversations you have had with another individual and screenshotted. In certain situations, it may not be, however. This article shares with you various useful information regarding the topic.

David Johnson is a freelance writer with 9 years of experience writing for Techzillo and other established tech outlets like iMore. His focus and key interests are Apple and accessibility as well as consumer technology in general. Read our Editorial Guidlines and Fact Checking process.


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