Exactly how much is your privacy worth? Charlotte Church has joined a long line of celebrities and other public figures in successfully suing the defunct News of the World for £600,000 for invading her privacy. The Church case was awful, but is her privacy worth over half a million pounds? Is mine? Most significantly half of the damages paid are made up of legal costs, so you have to question whether protecting your privacy is a luxury only afforded to the rich.
The hacking scandal raises the age old debate whether pubic figures have a right to privacy. Some fairly old Leeds University research indicates that most of us agree they do, and most of us would clearly abhor the intrusion into medical records of family members that characterized the Church case, but what price privacy? Charlotte Church is estimated to be worth over £10million pounds, money entirely generated through her public profile. Do that loyal public therefore have a right to all the salacious gossip about Church's toilet antics, and where do you draw the line?
I believe that privacy is a bargaining tool. The more you put yourself in the public eye with docu-soaps of your beautiful family, the more we can also expect to learn of your drink driving conviction or your less than rosy relationship with on-off boyfriend/girlfriend/manager. Never has this been better demonstrated than by Katie Price, a woman who sells her privacy by the minute like an ever spinning taxi meter, asking for privacy during her separation from reality TV husband Peter Andre.
It's a terrifying amount of data we allow to be collected about ourselves, but it's probably not time to join the tin-foil hat brigade just yet. Yes, you can delete your Facebook profile and stop using Twitter, but can you live without Google Search or email? I have friends who for various reasons have become worried about this. One for an entirely practical reason (he is a teacher, and is inundated with Friend Requests from the little darlings) uses an entirely false name on Facebook, another has abbreviated his name because he's worried potential employers will research him. I'm not sure what he's worried they will find. Maybe he had sex with Charlotte Church in a toilet, or maybe he has a drink driving conviction. Maybe I should name him here so he can sue Huffington Post for invading his privacy.
I'm glad Charlotte Church and her family got an apology but I'm disappointed she had to spend so much on lawyers to get there. I'm certainly not convinced that she deserves such massive damages. We all bargain with our privacy, I just wish mine was worth £300,000 pounds.
Follow Colm Howard-Lloyd on Twitter: www.twitter.com/colmhowardlloyd