19.2.04

Fast, Free but Futile - the latest privacy adjudication from the PCC

While the House of Lords is being asked to adopt a 'sensitive' approach in relation to privacy the PCC's latest adjudication offers no such sentiment.

Mr Ibberson from Yorkshire had complained that a photo taken at a public event which he attended was subsequently used in an unconnected article. He had not wanted his photograph taken and when it was used in an entirely different story he considered this to be a breach of his privacy as expressed in clause 3 of the PPC code.

No such thing. The PCC ruled that as his photo had been taken at a public event to which the public and the press had been invited he had no reasonable expectation of privacy. There could therefore be no breach of the code.

What this adjudication and much of the current UK jurisprudence on this issue does is ignore privacy as a right in relation to the person as opposed to privacy in respect of a particular place. Just because a picture is taken in a public place does not mean it cannot be private. The use of Mr Ibberson's image in an unconnected story could be seen as intrusive but what can he do about it? If he were a celebrity with established and commercialised image rights then he might be able to sue for passing off or breach of confidence but as a relatively normal person - albeit a well-known local businessman - he is not in a similar position.

Does this mean that where a picture is taken in public then its subject has no rights or control over its use? The PCC seems to think so.

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