Millions know the details of Prince Harry’s personal life. Yesterday he made a plea: ‘everyone has a right to privacy’. But do we? If so, why do we eagerly give it all away on social media?
‘Even if I talk to a girl, that person is then suddenly my wife, and people go knocking on her door.’
In an interview yesterday, one of the world’s most scrutinised bachelors said modern society had abandoned the concept of privacy.
‘Sadly, the line between public and private life is almost non-existent any more,’ said Prince Harry. ‘In some areas there is this incessant need to find out every little bit of detail about what goes on behind the scenes. It’s unnecessary.’
He was speaking from experience. Details from his private life have often become public knowledge. In 2005, The Sunnewspaper used a photo of him dressed as a Nazi at a fancy dress party on its front page; in 2012, naked pictures of him were posted on a website for celebrity gossip.
The prince says ‘everyone has a right to privacy’. In the UK, this has been legally true since 2000, when a right to respect for individuals’ private and family life was enshrined in the Human Rights Act.
But the right is qualified, and often clashes with the right to free expression which is contained in the same act. It has been at the centre of several contentious legal cases, often involving celebrities suing newspapers, and the 2011 phone hackingscandal. In 2008, one newspaper editor said a judge had used it to impose restrictions on the press ‘insidiously’.
Now, university professor Gavin Phillipson says the use of modern technology is encouraging young people ‘not to value privacy’. ‘They’re perhaps taught that the important thing is to express yourself,’ he adds. This encourages them to expose ‘veryintimate’ details of their lives and ‘to acquire some kind of small celebrity’.
Surveys support his view. Rapidly increasing numbers of US teenagers are using Twitter and sharing personal details online, such as photos and phone numbers. And the average UK teenager now has 370 friends on Facebook. These trends have been accompanied by an increase in cyberbullying.
Is privacy a right? And how much should we value it?
Some see privacy as a way of safeguarding individual freedom. It allows us to act without the government interfering in our lives, and not to see our intimate personal details revealed in public. Law professor Julie Cohen goes further. Privacy allows us to develop a personal identity without worrying about the prying eyes of the society around us. It should not only be protected; it should be celebrated.
Privacy is over-valued, respond others. It is a charter for hypocrites, based on old ideas of keeping up appearances. We now live in healthier times where we can be open and honest and truthful with the world. This makes us all happier and more sympathetic humans.