A woman who put details of herself and a photograph showing her in a sheer top on a swingers’ website could not claim to have a reasonable expectation of privacy about the information, the Independent Press Standards Organisation has warned.
IPSO rejected a complaint from Lynn Pearce that the Daily Star Sunday breached Clause 2 of the Editors’ Code of Practice, covering privacy, with an online article headlined “Euro 2016: Swingers hosting couples sex parties to bonk while watching England” which was published on June 12.
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The article reported that a swingers’ club was hosting a themed sex party to celebrate England’s participation in the European Championships, and included an image of a swinging website, where the party was being advertised, with a comment in which one site member said she was excited about the event.
Pearce said she was concerned the newspaper had accessed a swinging website which was for paid members only, and had published a screenshot of the site, which showed her comment on the approaching football-themed party, her profile name, where she was from, and her profile photograph which showed her breasts through a sheer top.
She had a disclaimer on her swinging profile, which stated that no part of it could be taken and published without her permission.
The swinging website was not well known outside the swinging community, but the newspaper’s site would be accessed by far more people, she said, adding the article had led family members to discover that she was a member of swinging website.
The newspaper said the website to which Ms Pearce belonged was not a private site; anyone who submitted a name and e-mail address could access it, and it was not necessary to pay a membership fee.
Ms Pearce 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.
On the disclaimer, it considered that its journalist might not have seen Pearce’s entire profile because he only took the information available on the public forum.
Ms Pearce’s name and address were not published, and the picture was a “tiny thumbnail”, said the newspaper, adding that although it did not consider that the article disclosed private information about her, it removed the screen shot of her profile from the article because of the concerns raised.
Ipso’s complaints committee said anyone who entered a name and e-mail address on the swinging website to which Ms Pearce belonged could access her profile.
In addition to the image of her wearing a sheer top, the profile contained detailed information about her, which most people would consider to be highly private.
Given her 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 Pearce by name or disclose any further information about her beyond her forum post indicating her intention to attend the party.
Although there was no breach of the code, the committee welcomed the amendment of the article in response to the complaint.
The article has also been removed from the Daily Star’s website.