Ruling

04562-16 Pearce v Daily Star Sunday

    • Date complaint received

      6th October 2016

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      2 Privacy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 04562-16 Pearce v Daily Star Sunday

Summary of Complaint

1. Lynn Pearce complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Star Sunday breached Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an online article headlined “Euro 2016: Swingers hosting couples sex parties to bonk while watching England”, published on 12 June 2016.

2. The article reported that a swingers’ club was hosting a themed sex party to celebrate England’s participation in the European Championships. It included an image of a swinging website, where the party was being advertised, with a comment made by one of the site's members in which she said that she was excited about the forthcoming event.

3. The complainant expressed concern that the newspaper had accessed a swinging website, which was for paid members only. She said it had published a screenshot of the site, which had shown her comment on the forthcoming football-themed party, her profile name, where she was from, and her profile photograph which showed her breasts through a sheer top. She said that she had a disclaimer on her swinging profile, which stated that no part of it may be taken and published without her permission. She considered that the swinging website was not well known outside the swinging community, whereas the newspaper’s site would be accessed by far more people. She said the article had led family members to discover that she was a member of swinging website. 

4. The newspaper said that the website to which the complainant belonged was not a private site; anyone who submitted a name and email address was able to access it; it was not necessary to pay a membership fee. The complainant had commented on a public forum; she had not used the “private message” option and her profile picture and user ID could be seen by anyone visiting the site. With regards to the disclaimer, it considered that its journalist may not have seen the complainant’s entire profile because he had only taken the information that was available on the public forum. It noted that the complainant’s name and address had not been published, and the picture was a “tiny thumbnail”. Although it did not consider that the article had disclosed private information about the complainant, due to the concerns raised, it removed the screen shot of her profile from the article.

Relevant Code Provisions

5. Clause 2 (Privacy)

i) Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital communications.

ii) Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent. Account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information.

iii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals, without their consent, in public or private places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Findings of the Committee

6. Anyone who entered a name and email address on the swinging website to which the complainant belonged could access her profile. In addition to the image of her wearing a sheer top, the complainant’s profile contained detailed information about the complainant, which most people would consider to be highly private. Given the complainant’s own public disclosures of information, she could not argue that she had a reasonable expectation of privacy regarding her profile picture and username. The article did not identify the complainant by name or disclose any further information about her beyond her forum post indicating her intention to attend the party. There was no breach of Clause 2.

7. Although the Committee did not find a breach of the Code, it welcomed the amendment of the article in response to the complaint.

Conclusions

8. The complaint was not upheld.

Date complaint received: 01/07/2016
Date decision issued: 19/09/2016