Posts tagged ‘privacy’

The Duchess and the Photographer

Apparently the woman formerly known as Catherine Middleton has breasts.

Shocking, eh? I could scarcely believe it myself but from the feeding frenzy which has accompanied this ‘discovery’ anyone would think that she was the first post-pubescent female to have them rather than being just one amongst several billion.

Quite frankly I really don’t understand what the fuss is about. At some point we’ve all seen someone elses’ boobs – whether they were our mother’s, our partner’s, our girlfriends’, by the pool or on the beach, on the internet, on page 3 or in any other situation. The size varies, the shape changes (even on the same body) and some are more attractive to look at than others but in the long run breasts are breasts. If this is an issue for you then I suspect you have other problems to deal with first.

Where then does the ‘blame’ for this business lie?

According to Anne Diamond on BBC News 24 on Friday morning*, the Duchess of Cambridge has only herself to blame as she dared to bare them somewhere other than behind closed doors with the curtains drawn and the lights off**.

Since this is clearly ridiculous, we need to look further out. Should we therefore blame the Peeping Toms hiding behind their camera a kilometre or so away? They are certainly an easy target but they would say that they are just doing a job – as (at least in my opinion) distasteful as it is.

How then does this come to be a job? If there was no money to be made then it is unlikely that there would be hordes of people with cameras chasing the rich and famous around the world all day and all night.

So where does the money come from? It comes from the publishers of the likes of ‘Closer’, ‘Hello’, ‘OK!’ etc who know that they can make more money selling their glossy, large print magazines containing images of the aforementioned celebrities than it costs to buy the pictures from the photographers in the first place.

Why? Because a significant number of people apparently like to do nothing better than pour over the minutiae of other people’s’ lives and then gossip about it afterwards around the water cooler.

And that, right there, is the crux of the matter. Until our species grows up and stops caring about the private lives of people we will continue to get this sort of thing happening.

I would like to be around when that finally happens – if only to breathe a sigh of relief – but I suspect I’ll be dust long before then.

* I was in the gym, I didn’t have my iPod with me and the other option (besides silence) was Jeremy Kyle.

** Ok, she didn’t mention curtains and lights but the prudish inference certainly was there.

On super-injunctions

Internet savvy lawyers including David Allen Green and Charon QA spent part of Monday decrying Twitter’s involvement in the outing of the adulterer Ryan Giggs.

A commonality between the two them was their denouncing those who took it upon themselves to name Giggs as ‘unpaid reportertweeters’ who were ‘cheered on by tabloid journalists’. Yet others have called the behaviour mob rule.

Are they right? Is the outing of someone who clearly couldn’t keep to his marriage vows really a useful thing for everyone to have done?

The answer, as always, is a shade of grey.

It is perfectly understandable that those who have being playing away from home would prefer that their partners didn’t find out. The question therefore is to what lengths they should be able to go to in order to avoid that happening. The average Joe who doesn’t have £50,000 plus to donate to large, well known law firms so that their lawyers can pay their children’s school fees quite plainly doesn’t have the same options as a rich banker or celebrity and so will not be protected by the courts. However they are also unlikely to find their infidelities spread across several papers of the Sunday tabloids for whatever readership there remains to gawk over.

Unfortunately for the rich this is considered, in an age where information is freely (or cheaply) available, a red rag to a bull. By hiding behind lawyers and the courts all they manage to do is invoke the Streisand effect and bring even more publicity down on their heads. One day they may realise the old adage of today’s news being tomorrow’s chip paper, take the hit and get on with their lives. Yes, the internet makes it harder for things to go away but memories fade and people will generally not care beyond a brief gossip around the water cooler on Monday morning. All that injections manage to do, especially once the name behind one is revealed, is show how far behind the law is in relation to technology,

Indeed, Justice Eady, someone many believe to have made a mockery of British libel laws as a result of his judgements in such cases, said, during one of the two hearings yesterday in which judg’s refused to lift the injunction:

Should the court buckle every time one of its orders meets widespread disobedience or defiance? In a democratic society, if a law is deemed to be unenforceable or unpopular, it is for the legislature to make such changes as it decides are appropriate.

He comes close but doesn’t quite get it. Social media sites such as Twitter have rendered privacy injunctions unenforceable should those who use them, and who have access to knowledge that the courts have decided should not be made public, decide to do so. Any law that is not respected by the mob is a law that should be overturned. The rule of law, a thin veneer of civilised respectability, cannot survive unless those who are subject to it consent to be so – and in this matter it seems that the mob has decided that has concluded that the law in question is out of date. The justice system simply cannot cope with 70,000 people all naming someone they shouldn’t – any more than it is willing to attempt to enforce old, yet possibly still valid, laws banning consumption of items such as mince pies at Christmas or putting a stamp on an envelope the wrong way up. Certainly mass disobedience of the courts is nothing new and the use of the perverse verdict by juries (going against the directions of the judge) is a factor in the use of the death penalty in the UK being scaled back from all manner of offences, including petty ones, to only the most serious of crimes as well as, probably, other changes to the law.

Injunctions though are not just used by people who do not want their infidelities revealed. They have also been used to cover up criminal behaviour on behalf of individuals or corporations. Readers may well remember Trafigura appointing Carter-Ruck in an effort to stop the media reporting on a question concerning them in the House of Commons back in 2009 and the storm of protest that erupted then. Currently live injunctions, that don’t deal with issues of sexual indiscretion, do, according to the bloggers Max Farquar and Fleet Street Fox, cover up criminal activity including the sexual abuse of children. That, not some footballer screwing a non-entity, is a scandal.

All this however is just talking about injunctions taken out by individuals. The activities of two arms of the state, namely the Family Courts and the Court of Protection, are routinely conducted behind closed doors with details kept hidden from the public – and perhaps even those whose case the courts are ruling on. John Hemming, the MP who has been breaking some of the private injunctions under parliamentary privilege, has been campaigning for openness in those two state organs for some time. Hopefully the current row will help his cause.

We don’t need a strengthened privacy law – or indeed the bastard thing we have now thanks to the Human Right’s Act and how it has been interpreted it. What we need is openness in the shape of a strong freedom of speech and a public that has matured enough to not care what the rich and famous get up to between their sheets and with whom. Sadly we have neither.

On Max Mosley, Sex and Privacy

The FT on Friday carried an interview with the former head of the FIA, Max Mosley, ostensibly to discuss his case in the European Court of Human Rights regarding the right to privacy – a follow up to his victory in the High Court against News Group Newspapers Limited.

As I’m sure most of us remember the case made headlines thanks to the ‘unconventional’ nature of the sexual acts that were going on and the Nazi imagery which the News of the World falsely claimed was present – imagery which of course had added spice given who Mosley’s father was.

Although I personally couldn’t care less what Mosley – or anyone else for that matter – does for pleasure so long as all of the parties involved are willing participants it would seem that I am in the minority. The old adage that ‘sex sells’ is still a true one as, for a country with a supposedly liberal attitude to sex, there is indeed a good deal of school yard tittering that goes on whenever someone is revealed to have tastes that extend beyond the missionary position with the curtains closed and the lights out. The only weird thing to me is the prurient fascination with what other human beings do for pleasure – though I suppose it can probably be considered second- or third-hand voyeurism.

Our interviewer here seems to be of the majority persuasion however as she candidly admits that one of the questions she wanted to ask was ‘Why was MM drawn to S&M?’ Is the question even relevant given the matter at hand? No but it doesn’t stop her asking it or indeed trying to draw a link between his BDSM activities and his slightly odd childhood. Kudos to Mosley though for managing to respond to the attempts to define his activities as strange in a matter of fact way

I think it’s like being homosexual. It’s a quirk in your character. People have to be adult and simply say, well it’s sex and sex is very strange. Even ordinary sex is either very funny or disgusting, or both. That’s how it is, we’re animals in the end.

even though he says later on that

It’s embarrassing to talk about. I feel that sex should always be private. If people hear that so-and-so does such and such, the reaction shouldn’t be: Oooooh! It should be: Oh, for God’s sake that’s sex, don’t even discuss it.

Although not agreeing with Mosley that sex should be a taboo subject I am, as I have said, in agreement with him when it comes to not being interested in what strangers do for fun. The only time it is relevant is when they are guilt of hypocrisy by saying one thing and doing the opposite.

Not though content with letting sleeping dogs lie Mosley has filed an application with the ECHR claiming that his rights where violated because the News of the Screws did not have a legal duty “to notify him in advance in order to allow him the opportunity to seek an interim injunction and thus prevent publication”.

This is where I have a problem.

I can see why, given the media in the UK, people would want a strong privacy law. But does the problem entirely lie with the media? There is apparently no shortage of prominent or ‘famous’ people who are willing to invite the press into almost every aspect of their lives (often in return for money) because they want the resulting publicity that it brings. Can we therefore fault journalists for taking the logic step of digging into the lives those in similar positions who aren’t media hungry because they believe – rightly it seems – that such stories are wanted by the section of the populous what care X, Y or Z get up to in their private lives?

Does then an individual have a right to privacy, to not have salacious details of their lives that they did not themselves reveal spread across various newspapers and magazines? No, I do not think that they do. A privacy law means that state force is being used to suppress information – however irrelevant it may be – and that goes against Libertarianism as I see it.

If a publication however prints false or malicious allegations then the subject of their hatchet job has every right to sue. The only shame is that it is can be expensive and time consuming to do so as a recent piece over on Anna’s and some of the comments it generated showed.

In the long run the only way I see things changing is when people finally grow up and stop encouraging such behaviour by not purchasing the papers and magazines involved.

Given the falling circulation figures for the dead tree press it seems we are, perhaps, heading in the right direction.