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

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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Yvette Cooper campaigning in London at the launch of Labour’s women’s manifesto  

I want the Labour Party to lead a revolution in family support

Yvette Cooper
Liz Kendall  

Labour leadership contest: 'Moderniser' is just a vague and overused label

Steve Richards
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine