Is it legal to run a web-business that identifies personalities of people based on client provided photographs of anonymous subjects?

I have a talent where I can identify someone’s personality and psychological behavioral traits by looking at a photo of said person. I’d like to turn this into a business and make money off of it. Clients would provide me an anonymous photo of the person they want to learn more aboutand would go through a session with myself where I tell them about the person in question. Is this web-based business legal? Counselling sessions would be private and confidential over email. Clients would pay me on-line.

Asked on September 21, 2011 under Business Law, Florida


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

It is potentially legal, but there are some risks to be aware of:

1) The main issue with people's photos is distributing, republishing, profiting off them, etc. without their permission. If you are not the one taking the photo, you *should* be safe in this regard...but make sure you do not post, republish, etc. the photo afterward, and you probably should not retain a copy, either.

2) There is a risk of a defamation claim. Defamation is the public--which means even to one other person--making of a false statement of fact which damages the reputation. An opinion is not defamation, so saying, "This person appears untrustworthy" is not defamation. But--to use an extreme exampe--say you see a photo of a Jeffrey Dalmer look alike and state "Be careful! His features indicate he is a cannible"--that would be a defamatory statement. So be sure to never phrase matters as factual assertions, only as opinions, well-caveated as opinions.

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