Friday, 17 July 2015

Publishing pictures of celebrities - the paparazzi have more rights than the police

When is it (generally) inappropriate to publish pictures of celebrities in public places? It's fine to publish them if you’re a media organisation, but not if you’re a law enforcement body.


Because the DPA requires data controllers to restrict their processing activities to those activities that the data controller has registered with the ICO. Newspapers, by their very nature, process personal data for journalistic purposes. This is not a purpose that law enforcement bodies have previously declared.

In accordance with our data protection laws, it can be appropriate for newspapers to publish pictures of celebrities in public places, particularly when the celebrities are currently promoting shows that feature themselves. So, the recent pictures of Messrs Clarkson, Hammond & May, currently touring Australia with their motor show, leaving an Australian Airport, are fair game because they were taken by the paparazzi. But, recent pictures of Michael Mcintyre, currently promoting his UK comedy tour, leaving the Capital Radio studios in London’s Leicester Square, are not fair game, because they were taken and published by the police.

It's a funny old world. I assume the officer who thought it would be fun to publish Michael Mcintyre’s picture on the National Police Air Support Unit’s Twitter account had no idea how the privacy Taliban would react. Well, that officer does, now.

The Surveillance Camera Commissioner and the Information Commissioner have both waded into the debate, so we can be confident that the National Police Air Support Unit will be tweeting fewer pictures of celebrities in future.

But all is not lost. The paparazzi will continue to be out in force, and a grateful public will still be able to feast their eyes on snaps of celebrities who, often working hand-in-hand with the paps, provide arresting images of themselves.