This paper will argue that privacy is a commodity; a commodity with a variable price.
For the famous, the price is high. Trade in their personal information is lucrative and highly prized by themselves, the media and consumers.
For the ordinary person, privacy still has a value, but it is much lower. It can be traded for preferential deals, for cash, for fame (or notoritety) or even for friendship or professional advancement.
Protection of privacy is therefore of great interest to the famous and of little consequence to the basic data subject. The public discourse of privacy also seems to exist only on the media/celebrity axis.
This may be because there is no coherent body of legislation on the matter – what law there is is drawn from various sources with different origins and intentions. The paper will argue that this has led to a very technical body of rules (the Data Protection Act) which cannot be adequately understood by non-experts, and which is in tension with other legal regimes (access to information).
These are the rules which should protect the privacy of the individual against all bodies; the state, corporations, media intrusion, and yet privacy law is being determined through the courts at the behest of celebrities keen to protect their privacy commodity.
This paper will argue that the celebritising of privacy does a disservice to all data subjects without access to a barrister and a superinjunction.
Helen began working in data protection and access to information at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 2002. She then ran the Public Access Office at the Metropolitan Police Service before moving to the Information Compliance Team at Congestion Charging.
Helen left London to raise her family in 2007 and has worked as a freelance consultant since then.
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