Here's the abstract for a paper I am presenting at the Association for Journalism Education's conference in Sheffield on Friday. Any thoughts, comments welcome...!
Debate around ‘privacy’ has long been a key theme in journalism ethics and regularly exercises bodies such as the Press Complaints Commission. Journalists are accused of intrusion when they employ tactics ranging from aggressive doorstepping, using telephoto lenses, or scavenging through rubbish bins. The contested area is usually when information is made public that the complainant thought was private and for which no consent was given; today, the rapid rise of social media is transforming notions of ‘private space’ as users routinely and voluntarily offer up large amounts of personal information to a potentially unlimited audience, including journalists.
Drawing initially in the work of cyberlaw expert Johnathan Zittrain, author of The Future of the Internet (2008), this paper seeks to examine whether traditional notions of privacy need to be re-examined in a world where ‘secrets’ are routinely put on public display. Soon, photo-recognition search software will automatically ‘tag’ faces in online photo albums, already websites can use GPS and online maps to give a real time account of the movements of celebrities. These changes are upon us and Zittrain argues that words like ‘public and private are no longer subtle enough to express the kind of privacy we may want’.
So how should journalists respond to what Zittrains call the ‘privacy mosiac’? What are the consequences for truthful expression in a ‘hyperscrutinised society’?