When we share our lives with our blog readers, or with our Twitter followers, do we automatically give permission for the press to access that information? Is there any privacy in Social Media? 

 

 

 


 

What would you do, if your entire life history was broadcast to the world, at a time when your life was falling apart? 

And where is the line to be drawn, when reporting a story of national interest? 

 

These questions have been going around in my head since I read the article on the Daily Mail website about the wife of Jeremy Forrest. 

For those who are not in UK, and may not have heard of this, Forrest was a teacher at a school in England who began a ‘relationship’ with one of his young pupils. While there are some who will defend him, by saying that she looked older than her 15 years, the fact remains that he was fully aware of her age. He was also in a position of authority and trust, which he betrayed. 

Forrest realised that his secret was about to become public knowledge, that (at last) the school were acting on information from Megan’s family about the relationship, and absconded to France with her. The Daily Mail reports this as a ‘tragic romance’, when it was nothing of the sort. It was the abuse of a young pupil by a teacher who should have known better. 

If this was love, he would have walked away. 

Girls of this age have crushes, often on their teacher. We have all been there, felt that heady rush of first love, the uncertainty, the doubt, the hope. It is totally normal, and wonderfully sweet. And innocent.

A responsible teacher would have distanced himself from his pupil. 

 

He did not. He tweeted, he blogged, he wrote songs about her. Using his ‘stage name’, he shared his thoughts and dreams, as so many Twitter users and bloggers do. We know all of this, because the Daily Mail has been sniffing about the internet, searching for anything that they can use in a story.

He was not alone in sharing his life on the internet. His wife was a prolific blogger, who wrote about the planning of their wedding, and their honeymoon. She posted photos, which have now been shared with the world via the Daily Mail website. They have even found her Trip Advisor profile and shared, without her knowledge or her permission, her comments on the hotel where she went on honeymoon.

 

Is this a step too far? There are some who will insist that if a person puts private information onto a public website, then they can’t complain about a loss of privacy. They are totally missing the point that sharing details of one’s life with the couple of hundred (or even thousand) readers of a blog is very different to having one’s wedding photos splashed across the tabloids. 

It is also a warning to anyone who uses Social Media, whether blogger, Twitter of Facebook user. Only share as much as you are comfortable having everyone in the country reading.  Think carefully about the details you post, and about the people you mention in your writing. I am very cautious when mentioning my family. I blog, they don’t. They have not given me permission to share their lives with you – my children are too young to take that decision and my husband is a Social Media virgin, without even a Facebook page. He would not be comfortable with me talking about him, which is why I rarely mention him and would never post a photo of him on my blog.

 

The line between private and public is blurring, and we are scrambling to keep up.

There needs to be a frank discussion about the press digging into private lives that have been shared in public. Does the fact that I have shared my thoughts on my blog, give the press permission to reprint my photos? And do I have to look more closely at copyright issues?

I will attend the Mumsnet Blogger Academy later this year, and was pleased to see that the legal expert David Allen Green has been invited to speak. I hope that we bloggers can all learn about how to protect ourselves from an invasion of privacy, and from legal challenges (eg. when sharing photos from other websites).  .

 

 

Featured image by Andreas Photography, used under Creative Commons

 

11 Comments

 

  1. October 1, 2012  9:34 pm by Julianne Robertson Reply

    Timely and thought-provoking. I'm not in any way making excuses for the media, but it's clear we're all still feeling our way through the digital revolution and all that means regarding social media, privacy and publication. You're right - more thought/conversation needs to happen - and quick.

  2. October 1, 2012  11:52 pm by Nickie Reply

    Good post. I'm quite lax about the details I post online and my family *are* all old enough to give me permission to talk about them and I take their views very seriously.

  3. October 2, 2012  2:22 pm by Dannii Reply

    She had made her blog private and either deleted her Twitter or made it private, so for them to somehow get hold of the info and print it is wrong. Plus the photos had been deleted from the Rock & Roll Bride blog (I presume at her request) and are official wedding photos with, you'd imagine, the wedding photographer's copyright attached. The Mail were so wrong to publish all this based on Goggle's cache or snooping. I imagine how I would feel in the same position - not very happy I can assure you!

  4. October 3, 2012  1:56 pm by Kate Williams Reply

    Good post, I do mention my husband in son, because sadly DHs job mean that we're used to dealing with dodgy people, but I still wonder if its the right thing to do. Its nice to imagine that British Media would be well behaved enough not to go through your online dirty laundry, but in reality thats unlikely to ever be the case.

    • October 11, 2012  8:33 am by Lynn C Schreiber Reply

      That is a worry, isn't it - we do trust the media, even when they have shown themselves to be thoroughly untrustworthy.

  5. October 3, 2012  7:28 pm by Dilly Tante Reply

    Good post. Yes we should all be wary about what we put online, but a throwaway comment on Twitter is a world away from someone piecing it all together & pushing it to people who weren't otherwise looking for it. Do you remember when the Daily Fail started publishing MN posts? Quite rightly so though on technical grounds they hadn't done anything wrong.

  6. October 4, 2012  5:28 pm by Sally Littlestone Reply

    Really good post. Before I think I would have said it was a public domain and at our own risk however having read your article I do feel utterly sorry for the wife. Not sure of the answer though??

    • October 11, 2012  8:32 am by Lynn C Schreiber Reply

      It is a tricky issue, isn't?

  7. October 18, 2012  7:58 pm by Piper George Reply

    Very thoughtful. While I am aware of the risks of the internet, I have never really thought about the worst the damage could be.

  8. March 22, 2013  5:39 pm by jo Reply

    Very good post. I came off FB over a year ago when I found my husband's surname attached to my (different) surname on my FB page. Pretty horrified, as like your husband, he does no social media whatsover, so how and why did they link our names? Recently, I have started a blog (i'm a cartoonist) and a friend strongly advised me to join again. Reluctantly I did so under the blog's title, but have now been banished by FB for 30 days for breaching their mysterious conditions. I'm not even selling anything or doing anything illegal ! Certainly wouldn't write anything about my family and am amazed by some of the blogs one comes across. Even now hesitating about joining Twitter - is it really worth it or are hackers and annoying algorithms not to mention trolls around every corner? Please advise.

    • March 26, 2013  4:59 pm by Lynn C Schreiber Reply

      You will have been banned from FB because you didn't register as a real person. To have a FB profile for your blog, you need to register as a person, then open a page. You could use any name, but it must be a person not a website or business name for your initial profile. You can call your page whatever you like.

      You don't have to post anything at all on the personal profile, just use the page to publicise your work.

      Twitter is what you make of it. I think it is very worthwhile for those wishing to publicise their work, and for a cartoonist it could be a great boon. There are hackers and trolls around, but they are swiftly and easily blocked so don't let them put you off. Feel free to contact me per email for advice.

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