The Sunday Mirror hired detectives to keep illegal surveillance on the family of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, according to papers submitted to court as part of the phone hacking claims against the paper’s owners. News of the claim prompted press reform campaigners to complain that the full facts of the hacking scandal were not coming to light because of a government decision not to go ahead with the second part of the Leveson Inquiry into the conduct of the press. Read more from The Guardian here.
No answers here, but a tweet from the Financial Times includes a facial-recognition image and a line about the need to regulate the use of artificial intelligence. Newsrooms are already (in 2020) making advances in the use of AI in news coverage: for instance, to identify guests arriving at Prince Harry’s wedding. As far as privacy goes, the GDPR, the Data Protection Act and the Human Rights Act already make it clear what the law is. However, AI takes away some of the human decision-making, and may involve taking images from remote cameras so that it is not obvious to subjects that they have been photographed. Does this mean there needs to be special consideration of how to meet the obligations of the data protection laws – taking into account the exemptions for public-interest journalism, and the “legitimate purpose” under the GDPR of exercising the right to freedom of expression? (The link is to a paid-to-view story; anyone interested to explore further will have to investigate for themselves).
Jurors have been sent to prison for breaching strict rules to ensure a fair trial – especially the requirement that they reach a verdict solely on the basis of the evidence presented in court. A rash of cases prompted the creation of a specific offence under the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015. Examples are listed in an academic paper (pictured).
A former MP complained of breach of privacy after The Sun published photographs of him allegedly “nuzzling” his face in a friend’s breasts. The Independent Press Standards Organisation found in favour of the MP on privacy grounds, saying there was no public interest justification. A further complaint on grounds of accuracy was not upheld. Press Gazette’s account of the saga shows the reasoning behind the ruling. Read it here.
The 24-hour shutdown of Gatwick Airport, caused by a drone, became a media law story when a man and woman were wrongly arrested for causing the havoc – and their names were widely published. The Mail on Sunday splash headline read: “Are these the morons who ruined Christmas?”
One commentator quoted by Press Gazette said their case had echoes of the coverage of the arrest of Sir Cliff Richard, for which he was awarded £210,000 damages against the BBC. He was never charged. The case reshaped the landscape regarding privacy and media freedom.
In a Guardian blog, Professor Roy Greenslade said the affair was reminiscent of the case of Christopher Jefferies, the innocent man who suffered character assassination in the media after being briefly detained in connection with a Bristol murder. But he also noted the public interest in disclosure.
The same Press Gazette report quoted Gill Phillips, the Guardian’s director of editorial legal services, warning that privacy claims were now taking the place of defamation cases – with smaller but still punitive costs involved. Privacy cases offered no defence of truth, and ambiguity over the potential defence of public interest.
An injunction to stop the Daily Telegraph exposing alleged sexual and racial abuse by a businessman was “a devastating blow” to press freedom, the paper said in six pages of coverage.
The Court of Appeal granted an injunction to stop the paper naming the “leading businessman”, because the story probably arose from a breach of non-disclosure agreements – in which employees are paid money to stay silent.
The Telegraph said the ruling was “contrary to the age-old principle against prior restraint of the press”, which traditionally said the media should not be prevented from publishing stories that people wished to suppress – on the basis that they could be sued if the story was unjustified.
The editor said he was confident the junction would be overturned.
Prime Minister Theresa May said in the Commons that NDAs were being used unethically. Labour MP Jess Phillips said: “It seems that our laws allow rich and powerful men to pretty much do whatever they want as long as they can pay to keep it quiet.”
Telegraph gagged by injunction
Publishing candid street photography may fall foul of the General Data Protection Regulation introduced in May 2018, a number of writers have speculated. Facial features and even the fact that someone was in a particular location are now classed as personal data. Consent may be needed for “processing data” in the form of images, and people should know their “data” is being collected: a problem for photographers whose work involves snapping unsuspecting people. The impact of the law will become clear over time. Read more
The GDPR briefing on this website includes advice that photographers should carry privacy notices saying how images will be used, and giving contact details. It suggests that “legitimate purpose” is the best legal justification to cite for their work. It also links to a blog that urges a pragmatic approach: is it realistic to get written consent to use images from everyone at a particular event? Would there be an expectation that a photographer would be at a particular kind of event – which would reduce the need to seek consent from those present?