PCC issues 250 privacy rulings in a year

Out-Law News | 22 May 2008 | 4:47 pm | 2 min. read

The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) made 250 rulings on alleged media breaches of privacy last year, it has said. The printed media's self-regulatory body said that it had received 100 privacy complaints during the year.

Almost one in 10 breaches reported to the PCC were privacy related. It said that 9.2% of breaches related to privacy issues.

"The PCC adjudicated and upheld more complaints in 2007 than the year before – and successfully dealt with more complaints about privacy than ever before, despite the developing law of confidence," said Sir Christopher Meyer, chairman of the PCC. "We attribute this to the discreet manner of resolving complaints about privacy intrusion, the low risk and lack of fuss associated with making such a complaint, and the growing significance of the settlements that are available."

The PCC warned, though, that while it would represent those it believed had been wronged by newspapers, there were cases in which it could not help, and that individuals had to protect their own personal data.

"Uploading personal information voluntarily onto publicly-accessible sites such as Facebook makes it difficult to complain when the same material is republished elsewhere," said the organisation's annual report. "There has to be recognition of the role and responsibility of the individual when that information ends up in commercial media."

The PCC said that it was increasingly being asked to regulate internet publishing. "In 2007, over half the articles provided to the PCC were online versions, the first time they have outnumbered hard copies," said its annual report.

It said, though, that newspapers still attracted the most attention, and material that was only published online was barely complained about at all. "Complaints about material that only appeared online amounted to less than 1% of that total," it said.

Though it has overseen an increase in the number of complaints to it, the PCC claimed that this was not due to an increase in abuses by journalists.

"There is no evidence to suggest that this increase is due to a collapse in standards," said its annual report. "Rather, it is likely that other factors are at play: greater visibility of the PCC; growing awareness of what we do; the ease of complaining via email; and the extension of our remit."

The PCC last year took responsibility for regulating audio and visual material published by newspapers and magazines' websites. Meyer said that the extension of its remit has been a success.

"As a result, the Commission last year found itself dealing with new types of complaints – about taped conversations being broadcast, children being filmed in school, video of young vandals engaged in arson and so on." He said. "It is early days yet; but, on the record so far, the Code of Practice, based on principles rather than prescriptive rules, plus our long experience of applying the Code through swift, common sense rulings, is ideally suited to the demands of new media content regulation."

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