Jenny Afia explains the importance of online privacy to stop the press peering through your virtual keyhole
From the analogue baby boomers to today’s gadget gurus, different generations face the same kind of threats to their privacy. And with the lines between old media and new media blurring, prominent individuals are starting to experience a new threat where materials published on social media are assumed by the press to be acceptable for newspaper publication.
When it comes to privacy, nothing is out of scope. Even plans for a new kitchen can open the door to further scrutiny from prying eyes, especially if there is a significant value attached. There have been several occasions where we’ve been contacted on a Saturday afternoon because a newspaper has obtained photos of the interior of a client’s home.
From an interior designer proudly displaying house interiors on their website to estate agents putting the house in the shop window, even a brilliantly executed house move risks being exploited – turning a dream move into a privacy nightmare.
While in this instance it is possible to assert control and prevent the photos from being published, a less stressful and cheaper pre-emptive alternative is to limit the chances of the photos being made available in the first place, both in these commercial spheres but also on social media.
This is a privacy grey area that requires a bit of black and white. In a case last year we secured a ruling that photos published on social media, although theoretically in the public realm, can still retain enough privacy to be deemed intrusive if published in a newspaper. Yet prevention is still better than cure and only by assessing your digital footprint can you ensure that your private life remains private.
The most thought the average person gives to their online footprint is setting their social media profiles to ‘private’ but for prominent individuals, the picture is far more complex. Only by understanding their own digital footprint and the footprints of those closest to them is it possible to regain control of their public profile.
Clients are often amazed at what we’re able to uncover courtesy of our digital privacy investigations. More often than not, the children in a family are inadvertently sharing personal and private family photographs via Facebook and Twitter, unbeknown to their parents. Two to three years down the line these images have a nasty habit of resurfacing in the national press and embarrassing the target at the most inconvenient time.
From digital footprints to moving house, anything can open the door to scrutiny from prying eyes. That is why when it comes to privacy it is imperative that prominent individuals get interested before someone else does by taking the pre-emptive steps to identify threats to privacy and removing them.
Jenny Afia is a leading privacy lawyer and partner at Schillings. She featured in the Spear’s Reputation Management Index published last month and frequently acts for prominent individuals and their families in protecting them from unwanted media attention and the dissemination of false claims.