Republished Bebo Pictures – No Privacy Laws Broken !

Loaded Print Bebo ‘pin-up’ Pictures of a 15 year old But No Privacy Law Broken. The wonders of social networking sites are yet again, arguably, being outweighed by the negative turns it can take on people’s lives.  Pictures, originally uploaded in 2006 onto Bebo, of a then 15 year old girl were published by Loaded magazine offering £500 reward to anyone who could persuade the “woman” to appear in a photo shoot for them.  As such the complainant (now of adult age) was seeking to have the publication removed but this has so far been a fruitless attempt. So where do you turn to if photographs that you have uploaded for the enjoyment of friends and family are being used for another purpose? A complaint can be logged with the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) who will assess whether any publication has breached their Code. In this context the complainant needed to show (as per Code 3 [ii]) that the editors of Loaded Magazine could not justify the intrusion into her life without consent. The principle issue in this complaint is that the Code also states that the PCC will take into account any of the complainants own public disclosures of the information. It was in this context the PCC found that if you were to search for these pictures they were readily available already and had been circulated online. It is not stated whether it was the complainant herself who had taken the pictures from Bebo and put them into circulation. It was said to have been done “by others”.  The ruling therefore meant that the republication of the pictures did not raise a breach of their Code. Drawing some conclusions on this complaint it can be seen that despite an allegation that a publication is in “bad taste” in this situation it was still not in breach of the Code as “issues of taste and offence” are not the same as questioning the legality of the material. This ruling does still seem to uphold the general principle that the press have a higher standard imposed on them and as such pictures that are not in wide circulation (but simply published on a social networking site) should not be re-published and a complainant would have the right to have these removed if it were to happen. It does also, however, put more responsibility on each one of us to monitor how our pictures are being used once uploaded for those intended friends and family!

Published May 18, 2010

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