Prince Harry speaks up for right to privacy

Action: Harry has had a troubled relationship with the camera. © PA

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 Sun newspaper 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 hacking scandal. 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 ‘very intimate’ 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?

Private investigations

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.

You Decide

  1. Which is more precious to you — your privacy or your right to express yourself?
  2. Is privacy a right?


  1. You are due to interview a famous person you admire. Make a list of questions you would like to ask them, to find out as much about them as possible. Then rate each question out of 10, to show how likely they would be to answer it fully.
  2. In fours, research a famous legal case based on privacy. Prepare for a two-minute debate in pairs, in which you each argue one side of the case.

Some People Say...

“If you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide.”

What do you think?

Q & A

Prince Harry is fifth in line to the British throne. How can his words be relevant to an ordinary teenager?
He is in a very privileged position, but he has also been exposed to the downsides of this issue of privacy much more than most people. He has raised the question of how much you should know about other people here — and how much they should know about you.
Will it really matter if I share loads of information?
In the digital era, much more is being shared. This can be a good thing, as it connects us to people. But it can also come with risks, especially if you share something you may regret later on. There have even been instances of people missing out on jobs because of photos or posts on their Facebook profiles — so think carefully about what you share.

Word Watch

Article eight protects the right to ‘personal and family life’.
Public authorities may interfere with it in the interests of the community.
Free expression
Outlined under article 10.
In 2011, it emerged that reporters from tabloids such as the News of the World had hacked and listened to private voicemails.
The Daily Mail’s Paul Dacre was speaking after F1 boss Max Mosley won a case against another paper which had printed allegations about his private life.
Gavin Phillipson
A law professor at Durham University.
For example, their sexuality, struggles with body image and diet.
Pew says 24% of online teens used Twitter in 2013, up from 16% in 2011.
Personal details
Far more American teens shared photos of themselves, their school name, the city or town they lived in, their email address and phone number in 2012 than 2006, according to Pew.
370 friends
According to Statista.
A survey by McAfee in 2014 found 87% of American teens had witnessed cyberbullying; 52% had been in a fight because of something that was shared online.

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