Kate's topless pictures prove we need to start respecting privacy

As a French court yesterday accused French magazine Closer of "violating the bodily intimacy" of the Duchess, we should re-evaluate how we value privacy.

Share

A French court was asked yesterday to impose fines which could amount to hundreds of thousands of euros on the French edition of Closer magazine if it republishes, or distributes electronically, the topless photographs of the Duchess of Cambridge. The princess was described as a “young woman, and not an object” by a French lawyer representing the royal couple, who further accused the magazine of “violating [her] bodily intimacy”.

Although this is indeed true, it’s not the fact she’s our royal that we should feel outraged about, but the ever-increasing problem that privacy can be breached liberally, and often in the name of ‘ public interest’. Many seem to legitimise publication because they are of people who are already in the public eye, but the definition of public interest is blurring.

Fair enough, don’t do illegal things in public if you don’t want to be papped – like take drugs or accept a bribe. But where’s the line drawn? We’re inundated with reality shows which show people’s traumas. You can see someone eat kangaroo testicles, get punched in the face, go into rehab, have their faeces inspected - and fine, if you’re being paid to appear on the show and you knew what was coming. But why should photographers own the right to embarrassing pictures if they haven’t got the consent of those photographed?

In the case of Kate, there is of, course, a general feeling of outrage that our beautiful princess has been violated. But take away the fame and nobility and she’s just a girl who was photographed sunbathing privately without a top on. It’s perverse. My neighbour used to sunbathe topless, too. Would that make it OK for me and my family to get together to watch her from an upstairs window with a pair of shared binoculars we passed around? Somehow, the addition of a professional camera transforms a peeping Tom into a fearless photo-journalist.

We excuse publication of images in the name of our collective interest, and there is rarely comeuppance for those infringing privacy rights because we simply don’t have the laws to deter people from sharing personal images or videos of others, apart from suing – after the damage has already been done, and the economic gain often far outweighs the breach. In this case, the magazine could be fined up to £36,000, which, compared to the massive increase in sales and exposure they've received, is insignificant.

Some paparazzi are plainly unapologetic parasites. They follow celebrities while they are trying to carry out normal activities with their family (of course some celebs enjoy the attention and even leak their whereabouts to get “spotted”, but not all), and they chase people in their cars – whether children are involved or not.

 

Because demand is there, does that validate the supply?

 

Of course it’s a matter of supply meeting demand. There seems to be an insatiable desire for celebrity images, and the more humiliating the better. But morally, because demand is there, does that validate the supply?

I think a re-evaluation into the realms of what we find acceptable is needed when it comes to prying unabated, before it’s a case of vultures feeding on other people’s shame.

There should be no justification for selling images of someone else’s intimate moments without permission. If they’re caught doing something naughty which compromises their job (for example, as a politician) or contravenes arguments they make/or beliefs they purport to hold, then fine. But sticking a lens up a woman's skirt as she enters a cab, dragging someone’s private sex life through court and publicly reporting  the case, or watching a singer perform oral sex takes if too far.

There seems to be a common attitude that anyone else has a right to photograph a stranger and share it with the world. The Duchess of Cambridge was indeed sunbathing topless – but privately. And the European law states that it is usually unlawful to publish pictures taken in situations where someone has a reasonable expectation of privacy. On a personal level, however comfortable you feel when you think it’s just you and a partner or a friend, it doesn’t equate to wanting the world to see the same view.

With the phone-hacking scandal, we’ve seen how responsibility was relinquished in the quest for a good story, but that lack of accountability can’t remain.

If you have a wide-open window while on the loo, is it your own fault if someone pops a camera in and takes a few pics? If a towel falls down while you’re getting changed at the gym, are you fair game to be snapped? Extreme examples perhaps, but if you can’t stop photographers taking illicit images, then we should at least be properly prohibiting publications from distributing them, with fair legal repercussions if they do.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Project Manager - Birmingham - up to £40,000 - 12 month FTC

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Manager - Birmingham - ...

SThree: Recruitment Consultant - IT

£25000 - £30000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Sthree are looking fo...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin (based in London)

£20000 - £25000 per annum + commission: SThree: Real Staffing's Pharmaceutical...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Prevention is better than cure if we want to save the NHS

Tanni Grey Thompson
Question time: Russell Brand interviewing Ed Miliband on his YouTube show  

Russell Brand's Labour endorsement is a stunning piece of hypocrisy

Lee Williams
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before