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Why Privacy #Superinjunctions Are Pointless

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While certain social media sites discuss the names of the people who have taken out superinjunctions to protect their privacy, I thought, a propos of nothing, that I’d chuck my twopenneth in to the debate.

I am the first one to mock these injunctions (although for professional reasons I probably shouldn’t). I mock them because of their utter futility. When I was growing up, a book was banned under the Official Secrets Act – it was called Spycatcher by Peter Wright and it revealed some things about MI5 or MI6 or MFI or something. During the period of the ban, I acquired a copy. I suppose, on a level, this means that I breached that Act – although, in my defence, I was about 14 at the time and did not really pose much of a threat to national security.

The book did though. I read some of it and I genuinely believe that had the whole country been able to buy the book and read it, it would have led to the end of the civilisation – primarily as they all dozed off into a boredom induced coma. Man alive, it’s an awful book. I suspect it did more to convince people not to join MI5 and take up accountancy instead than any other book in history.

Anyway, back to the plot. 14 year old me acquired a copy of Spycatcher. I did so using my best espionage techniques – which included remembering that it had been on the news and seeing a copy of it on a stand outside a newspaper stall at Paignton train station.

Of course, it sold far more copies banned than it ever would have done if it had been available from the outset.

And, of course, if we had all had access to the world wide web at that time and it had been banned, we would literally all have had a copy – not just those of us who happened to see a copy freely available to buy at Paignton train station.

Superinjunctions are a bit like the Spycatcher thing. The press is banned from telling anybody anywhere who is subject to these superinjunctions or what they are about but it’s pointless. If you go on to certain social media websites and search of some kind of secret squirrel subversive text (‘superinjunction’ for instance) you’ll start to find the list of names of people who may have one – and the reasons too. Google is also useful for these purposes.

Like I say, pointless.

But there is more to this in my opinion. It is our prurient Victorian view that other people should act in an ‘appropriate’ manner (normally involving sex) and that their behaviour has something to do with us if they do not.

Sure, I will point and laugh at them – but I’m laughing at them because of the fact that they’ve run off to court to do something pointless not because of what they have done.

None of the people that I have read about so far (with the exception of Andrew Marr who seems to have berated, on the one (oversized) hand, politicians for their sexual peccadilloes and, on the other, the idea of judge-led privacy laws at around the same time that he wandered off to court to get a superinjunction) have been hypocritical to me. Far from it, they’ve done things in their private lives that are nothing to do with me. The footballer hasn’t preached at me on the subject of marital fidelity, the actor hasn’t held forth on morality – so what does it have to do with me what they get up to in their own lives? Literally nothing.

Statute law will intervene in this because we cannot kick the habit of thinking that other people’s private lives are something to do with us. Just because someone is famous does not mean that we own them and it does not mean that they are our play thing. They are people, just like you and me, who deserve to get on with their own lives, do what they want and make mistakes in private.

What I’m saying is that we should leave them alone – for our own sake. As soon as there is a proper privacy statute in place in the UK, you can bet your bottom dollar that there will be people who use it for corrupt purposes – things that will really have an impact on you and me. So, let the politicians and footballers and actors do what they have been doing for years – it’s nothing to do with us – and, in return, let’s not have a privacy law that stops us knowing things that we need to know.

Written by James

April 26th, 2011 at 11:31 am

Posted in law,legal

Tagged with , ,