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).
Police rebuked national media for using Facebook pictures of a boy who had been mauled to death by a dog, but a local site baulked at doing so – and won the family’s trust. Read more.
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.
Scraping pictures and other information from Facebook and other social media could be unethical, the former editor Chris Frost argues in a book chapter (2018). He cites a publisher saying one woman’s picture was “publicly accessible”, but the account privacy was set to “family and friends”. Another picture of a possible Manchester bombing victim was taken from a hoax account. Both resulted in IPSO rulings. Read the full chapter 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.
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?
News organisations will have to tread very carefully in covering early investigations into people who have not been charged with a crime, a specialist lawyer said in the wake of the Cliff Richard privacy case. Read more
All websites – including personal blogs and student sites must comply with the new (in 2018) General Data Protection Regulation, says a guide published by WordPress. Nearly all collect personal data – for instance, when someone subscribes. Read the guide here.
A newspaper failed to contact a woman’s ex-partner when she claimed he had harassed her and was subject to a court order, because it was concerned for her safety. IPSO found against the paper on grounds of accuracy, but not for breach of privacy. Note that the main interest here for journalism students in England and Wales is with the Editor’s Code – Northern Ireland has its own laws. Read more