You may wonder why I would write a post entitled privacy, well read on dear reader.

Well recently, the Government released details of its Communications Data Bill. The BBC report on  the story is online. Now, I will admit to having not read the Bill in full, and am relying on the media for my knowledge of the same.

The Bill apparently will require Internet Service Providers to retain details of our internet activity and emails etc. for at least 12 months.

Records will include people’s activity on social network sites, webmail, internet phone calls and online gaming.

Home Secretary Theresa May said the change was needed to keep up with how criminals were using new technology

Many people have reacted in horror at these proposals. Some for legal reasons, but many just as a knee jerk reaction against the Government having access to personal information about them.

Now, you may well think that is an understandable approach. I have concerns about the government or other authorities having information stored about me.

What interests me is that many of those people who complain about these new powers also have Facebook/  Twitter accounts where they publish intimate details of their lives and make that information available to everyone to see. How many of you have for example Facebook accounts where the privacy setting is the default one so that everyone can see all you post? You then go on to post details about where you are, where you are going, what you are doing etc for everyone to see. You may also upload photographs to your Facebook albums and have left the privacy settings so that everyone can see them.

Isn’t this inconsistent with your claiming to value your privacy rom the snooping eye/ears of the powers that be?

Let me turn to another aspect of privacy that always intrigues me. People often object  to you taking photographs in say the park, high street or wherever. Why? Well some claim it is an invasion of their privacy, but the same people are often happy to have all sorts of pictures of them posted on Facebook and also tag themselves in photos on Facebook. Now because they have not restricted the privacy settings, they are making these pictures available to anyone to see.

People seem to have this strange idea they can somehow control you taking picture in a public space or that you need the consent of the people in the picture. This is complete nonsense, there is no right of privacy. I can’t help but wonder if any of those complaining and trying to prevent you taking pictures in public places are the same people who wave whenever the TV cameras are filming in public places?

Now, some people will object to you taking / publishing pictures of children. It is a hot topic of debate at many schools and sports clubs. There is nothing that a child likes than to get his picture in the paper or on the club/ school wbsite after for example wining a race or scoring a goal. Why should we deny the child that pleasure? Well the argument of those who would wish to deny their child that pleasure is “what if the picture ends up in the hands of a paedophile?”. That simple logical answer to that is so what if the picture does end up in the hands of a paedophile?

How is that going to harm your precious child? So what if a paedophile in say Leeds gets his hands on a picture of little Tommy in his cycling kit or his football kit? How is that going to harm Tommy? It may be slightly distasteful to think of him “knocking one out” whilst looking at the picture, but it won’t harm Tommy. The reality is the preventing of the taking/ publication of those pictures will do little Tommy far more harm.

Think I am out of step on this? Well, read the following press release from the Information Commissioner.

Press Release

For immediate issue

Date: 30 June 2010

Parents can snap away at this year’s sports day

Capturing the moment your child crosses the finishing line at their school sports day does not break the law. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is reminding schools that they cannot hide behind data protection myths to prevent parents from taking photos of their children at school events.

Deputy Commissioner and Director of Data Protection, David Smith, said: “A photo of your child at their first school production or winning the 100m race on sports day preserves precious memories. The Data Protection Act in no way stops parents from taking such photos. A common sense approach should be taken to photography at school events. Photos for personal use, such as family albums, are not covered by the Act. Schools that cite the Act to prevent parents from taking pictures are wrong.”

The Information Commissioner’s Office has produced guidance for local education authorities and those working within schools, colleges and universities explaining that the Data Protection Act is unlikely to apply in many situations where photographs are taken for personal use. The Data Protection Act does apply to photographs taken for official use by schools and colleges and stored with personal details, such as names. In cases such as these, a common sense approach would suggest that if the photographer gains permission to take a picture, this will usually be enough to ensure compliance.

The full copy of the guidance can be viewed at


They produced further guidance about photos at school plays in much the same vein

Press Release

7 December 2010

Parents can snap away this Christmas

The Data Protection Act does not prevent family and friends from taking photographs at school concerts or plays this Christmas, the Information Commissioner said today.

Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham said:

“Having a child perform at a school play or a festive concert is a very proud moment for parents and is understandably a memory that many want to capture on camera. It is disappointing to hear that the myth that such photos are forbidden by the Data Protection Act still prevails in some schools.

“A common sense approach is needed – clearly, photographs simply taken for a family album are exempt from data protection laws. Armed with our guidance, parents should feel free to snap away this Christmas and stand ready to challenge any schools or councils that say ‘Bah, Humbug’ to a bit of festive fun.”

The ICO has produced guidance to dispel any confusion and explain parents’ rights under the Act. The guidance also provides advice for local education authorities and those working within schools, explaining that the Data Protection Act is unlikely to apply in most situations where photographs are taken by parents in schools.

The Act does apply when photographs of children are taken for official use by a school or college such as for issuing identification passes. In the other small number of instances where the Data Protection Act does apply, if the photographer obtains permission from the parent or individual to take a photograph, then this will usually be enough to ensure compliance


There is far too much public hysteria and hype about privacy. People react in a way that is neither sensible nor logical. There is too much hysteria and too little sensible debate.

People claim the Data Protection Act prevents lots of things it has nothing to do with and cite it when they do not have a clue what it actually says.

On a different but related note, I was threatened with being thrown out of a football match at Chesterfield 2 seasons ago. Why? because I was taking photos of the ground before the game with my digital camera. This was no fancy camera, but a cheapish pocket camera. The steward told me I was not allowed to use my camera in the ground but that I could use the camera on my phone. The reality is the camera on my phone was more powerful and far superior to my pocket camera. Go figure why I could not use the pocket camera but can use the better camera on my phone.

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