Prince Harry Uses GDPR To Obtain Payout From Photographer Who Shot Photos Of His Rental Home

from the something-about-pictures-of-a-house-on-a-beach... dept

The repeated answer to the question, “How does the GDPR work?” is: “Not well.” The privacy law enacted by the European Union is a regulatory omnishambles that was first greeted by non-European websites telling Europeans their business was no longer welcome.

From there, the convoluted law the EU Commission itself can’t even comply with properly has been used to vanish everything from documents on US court dockets to trash cans inside an Ireland post office. When it’s not providing new attack vectors to cybercriminals, it’s being co-opted by the powerful to control what the public gets to see and hear about them.

The latest repurposing of the GDPR into an offensive weapon occurred in the pre-Brexit UK, which may give the royal family a reason for remaining united with the rest of Europe. Britain’s literal ruling class has never shied away from dragging publications and paparazzi into court, but this latest case — involving photos of house being rented by Prince Harry — has a new GDPR twist.

Prince Harry this week notched another victory in the royal family’s long-running battle with paparazzi photographers, securing a “substantial payout” from an agency which used a helicopter to take pictures inside a house he was renting.

Potentially even more interesting than that is the way in which he won his battle — basing a legal case partly on a sweeping new European data law that is less than a year old.

According to a statement delivered to London’s High Court on Thursday, in which the paparazzi agency Splash News apologized to Harry, also known as the Duke of Sussex (emphasis ours):

“This matter concerns a claim for misuse of private information, breaches of The Duke’s right to privacy under Article 8 ECHR and breaches of the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) and Data Protection Act 2018 (“DPA”).”

This settlement has the potential to deter journalists from taking pictures of anyone or anything. While this case involved photos of the inside of Prince Harry’s rental property, it wouldn’t take much to stretch the definition of unlawful data-handling to cover any photos taken without the subject’s permission.

Although the details of the settlement still remain mostly under wraps, there’s speculation that the privacy violation wasn’t just the photos of the interior of the house — an interior only visible by air. (The photos were taken by a paparazzo in a helicopter.) It may also have something to with information not revealed publicly by Prince Harry: namely, the address of the photographed residence.

Given that the law allows subjects to revoke consent at any time following publication, this makes reporting on the lives of public figures that much more risky. It appears the GDPR can be abused much more easily than the UK’s routinely-abused defamation laws. The GDPR has an exemption for journalists, but it’s not clear-cut and requires a case-by-case examination by an EU comptroller who will make the final determination on the issue of public interest.

There’s no presumed exemption to the law that protects reporting. The EU Commission comptroller decides whether or not the published info was in the public interest when it’s challenged, which puts even less-sensational efforts on shaky ground. Given its retroactive reach, the GDPR can act as yet another “right to be forgotten,” allowing subjects of reporting to revoke consent (implied or otherwise) months or years after publication to force removal of content from the web. This case may deal with the unsavory actions of paparazzi but the side effects will be felt by journalism as a whole. Any public figure who wants to keep their private dealings out of the news — for whatever reason — will have the GDPR available to do their dirty work.

Filed Under: , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Prince Harry Uses GDPR To Obtain Payout From Photographer Who Shot Photos Of His Rental Home”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

This settlement has the potential to deter journalists from taking pictures of anyone or anything.

But we’re not talking about journalists here; we’re talking about paparazzi.
People whose tactics, were it not for the entirely incidental fact that they publish the results, would be indistinguishable from criminal stalking and harassment, a seedy industry that literally has blood on its hands. The less people make the mistake of equating them with real journalists, the better, especially for journalists!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

From Wikipedia

In all EU Member states, the Standardised European Rules of the Air apply; these set out a minimum altitude of 500 ft above any obstacle within a radius of 500ft, except with permission, or when taking off or landing. If an aircraft is flying over a congested area (town, settlement, etc.) it must fly high enough so that in the case of an engine failure, it is able to land clear safely AND it must not fly less than 1000 ft above the highest fixed object within 600 m of the aircraft.[6]

Member states are allowed to modify the low flying rule to suit their jurisdiction, for instance in the UK, the "500 ft Rule" allows pilots to fly below 500 ft as long as they are no closer than 500 ft to any person, vessel, vehicle, building or structure. The rules for flying near congested areas are the same in the UK as the rest of the EU[

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Try using one of those from a helicopter, it is nowhere near a stable platform for a lens with that long a focus. Also, such a lens has a narrow field of view through a window, like a window sized tunnel into a room. Besides which, to get much of a view into a room, you want to be at window level.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Assuming 35mm frame size, with an 800mm lens, and good luck with one of those in a helicopter, you get a 20ft wide field of view at 800ft. And even closer for shorter focal length lens. As I said to get useful through window photos from a helicopter, you need to be stupid low and close.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Belittling people based on strawman versions of their arguments is a very common theme in your posts. I talk about behavior–harassing and stalking tactics that have literally gotten people killed in the past–and you turn it into "people I don’t like," as if it were nothing but a personal preference, as valid as any other personal preference, rather than something based on objective behavior.

Such behavior should not be tolerated, and it certainly should not be granted the same legitimacy and legal protections as actual journalists who serve the public interest!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The end result is the same. So yeah, it is about "people you don’t like". GDPR don’t give a fuck if it is paparazzi or "actual journalists" as defined by you, whomever that includes. Is "MSM" belong to "actual journalists" today for your argument? What about non-professional journalists, or any interested citizens? If the razzi do illegal stuff, have them arrested. Otherwise we have to live with them, like every other human-devised thing on this planet. There should be no extra "protected because journalism" requirement, really.

In no way am i arguing that the razzi are cool or that this was a clever idea, but the use of GDPR in this case is flat-out very very bad and ridiculous.

Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Belittling people based on strawman versions of their arguments is a very common theme in your posts.

Ah, I see we’re up to the "accuse me of a strawman" portion of the conversation. That’s generally followed by the "run away" portion, but what the hell, I’ll respond anyway.

I talk about behavior–harassing and stalking tactics that have literally gotten people killed in the past

And what’s that got to do with the GDPR?

This is a rhetorical sleight-of-hand you use over and over again. "Splash News is a paparazzi organization. Paparazzi killed Princess Di. Therefore, Splash News is guilty of violating the GDPR."

"Bisnode is a credit union. Credit unions are unsympathetic. Therefore, Bisnode is guilty of violating the GDPR."

"A newspaper accurately stated that a winery partly owned by Devin Nunes was involved in a scandal, and accurately noted that there is no evidence that Nunes himself had anything to do with it. Somebody could read that article and then forget about that last part. Therefore, the newspaper is guilty of defaming Devin Nunes."

"The SPLC called the Proud Boys a hate group. A murderer once targeted people who were listed as members of a hate group by the SPLC. Therefore, the SPLC is guilty of defaming Gavin McInnes."

It’s an appeal to emotion by way of complete non sequitur; it doesn’t stand up to even trivial scrutiny. It’s Mad Libs.

"[person or organization] [did thing the story is about]. [somebody else who is at best tangentially related to person or organization] [did/might potentially do] [some other completely different thing that is illegal/not actually illegal, just unfortunate]. Therefore, [person or organization] [doing thing the story is about] is illegal."

The question isn’t "Are paparazzi bad?" The question is "Did these specific paparazzi violate the specific law they’re accused of violating?" You don’t seem to understand that there’s a difference between those two questions. Over and over again, you play this "they’re bad, therefore they must be guilty" card.

Pretty sure there was an old Married…with Children like that. Marcy is called as a witness to a car accident; she explains she didn’t actually see the accident or who was at fault, "but it had to be the Mercedes. My ex-husband drove one, and he was an asshole." Or something like that. Best I can do from memory 25 years later.

Just because Marcy’s ex-husband drove a Mercedes does not mean that this Mercedes owner caused a car accident. And just because paparazzi were involved in the death of Lady Di doesn’t mean that Splash News violated the GDPR.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

If you want your claims that you’re being wrongfully accused of making strawman arguments to be taken seriously… it might help if you didn’t immediately follow it up with a list of ridiculous strawman versions of your opponent’s position that consistently completely miss the point of his argument. All that does is further add to the evidence that you’re nothing but a troll arguing in bad faith.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"he less people make the mistake of equating them with real journalists, the better, especially for journalists!"

True enough BUT…
…even if you use a bad law to deal with an obnoxious unethical sh*tstain the fact of the matter is that the law in question is still bad and will be abused to public detriment far more than used for good.

I have yet to see one single truly decent thing emerging from the EU’s legislative process. The GDPR is, as the OP describes it, an ambiguous omnishambles tossed into the digital marketplace like a concussed lemming strapped to a hand grenade. Something few would call actively malicious but everyone sees an urgent need to stay away from.

Dealing with papparazzi has always been a nuisance but any legislation capable of effectively blocking them is also quite easy to use against, say genuine journalists and whistleblowers.

Anonymous Coward says:

as with 99.9% of EU laws that have come out recently, they are designed to be valid for the rich, the famous and the powerful while being a shambles for everyone else! would i have gotten a payout if the photographer had taken pics of my home? i very much doubt it! yet my privacy is as important to me as harry’s is to him! companies can class people who complain as obstructive, etc, but the person(s) cant get their name cleared. do the same thing to a company and all hell’s let loose on the complainer! as usual, 1 rule for us and 1 for those who dont need it but can exploit it to it’s full extent!

FlatZOut (profile) says:

If There’s One Way To Describe TechDirt

This whole Techdirt site is basically r/woooosh in a large scale form. People try to make jokes but everyone else refuses to understand what the joke is.

Note: this comment had nothing to do with the article about GDPR. This was just an observation made from reading the comments on most of the articles. Do not get confused.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"Every country or other governmental division could have the same slogan with a relevant date. Or maybe humans in general could just stop sucking so bad."

Not quite that bad. Most nations have high points intermittently, where the citizenry can have reason to be proud over their national state of ethics.

The EU as a whole, however, has as its highest standing achievement so far: "Hasn’t YET led the globe into World War 3"

ECA (profile) says:

I can see it now...

A person is caught in his private home with something REALLY bad.
He will be taken to court and prosecuted, based on those pictures.
Before this happens he SUES the person for invading his privacy and has all pictures destroyed.

Now its his word against the other person..
Thank you world of idiots.
And to think that our own gov. is thinking of doing the SAME THING.

Anonymous Coward says:

if someone is dealing drugs ,commiting a crime, the photo,s could be sent to a site like wikileaks ,
before anyone go,s to court.
The defamation laws in the uk have been used by rich people to cover up
various crimes ,like fraud,
the rich and maybe even corporations could use the gdpr to cover up
things they do not want to see published ,
most of the time the rich go to court,most people cannot afford to pay for expensive legal action .
Its seems strange to make a law covering data and photo,s and images
and to make no general exception for journalism or reporting in the public interest.
Famous people all over the world are followed around by paparazzi .
one photo of a famous person in a cafe or a supermarket can be sold
for 1000,s of dollars .

Theres a old law in france photo,s of children under a certain age cannot be published in a newspaper without getting permission from their parents .this law is not part of the Gdpr .

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Iv always asked the Q:
That if we are all Equal under the law(I know we arnt) why cant I have THEIR lawyers and They can have mine??
And it shouldnt be based on how much I can afford in Lawyers.

A good Lawyer knows both sides, and IF I do win, my Lawyers will be paid by the outcome and by the person who lost.. Which means THOSE lawyers will work harder for ME, then they will for the Corp, as the CORP has more money to win.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"Iv always asked the Q: That if we are all Equal under the law(I know we arnt) why cant I have THEIR lawyers and They can have mine??"


As long as talent, ambition, skill, education, motivation, and energy levels are different between individuals the amount of political/social/legal force which can be leveraged will be unequal.

What democracy can reasonably accomplish is to establish a level playing field which provides the same rules for everyone.
The ability to take full advantage of said rules remains with the wealthier party, however.

The soviet-era attempt to ensure that every citizen was identical by stamping out every perceived individual difference was an attempt to cheat this logic by abolishing a major part of human nature. It failed, but not because they were wrong. It is indeed the only way to accomplish full egality.

We either learn to live with human failings or we cease to be human.

Anonymous Coward says:

As your favourite GDPR troll I must leave a comment to this.

I have no idea how the GDPR comes into play here. Tim doesn’t mention it and the linked also does not. I would really like to know which part of it might count in this case.

Please, forget the GDPR here, the real important thing is Article 8 ECHR. How many of you did even look at it before bashing the GDPR? Article 8 is about "Right to respect for private and family life" and says "1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence." Paragraph 2 defines execptions for public authorities. Find the full explanation at

So to summarize this story, even Prince Harry can expect his private things being private in his home. Who could have this expected?

Wendy Cockcroft (profile) says:

Right to privacy

I’ve been wrestling with the notion of entitlement to privacy for public figures for a long time, Tim, and frankly I believe this is the wrong hill to die on.

Yes, the law may well be abused but it ain’t being abused here. Celebrities live in a goldfish bowl as it is, constantly hounded and criticised. It’s awful to find out from the media that your friends have been selling stories about you for money. Now you can’t even sit at home in your own house without someone screaming "Freedom of the press!" while pointing cameras at the inside of your home and telling everybody and their dog where you live. Not okay.

The right of the individual to privacy must be balanced with the public interest and if the interest is mere curiosity they can get stuffed.

Full disclosure: siding with the underdog is an Anglo-Irish thing.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Right to privacy

"Yes, the law may well be abused but it ain’t being abused here."

Sadly that’s a bit like saying "lynching laws may be bad but we can only applaud this one time they hung the right guy"*.

Just because a broken watch is right twice a day doesn’t mean it’s acceptable as a timepiece.

"Now you can’t even sit at home in your own house without someone screaming "Freedom of the press!" while pointing cameras at the inside of your home and telling everybody and their dog where you live. Not okay."

But that’s a different kettle of fish altogether. Individual right to privacy is well worth defending, and there are plenty of laws on the tablets enabling such defense.
This, however, is about the GDPR, which is a shit law from start to end.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"Ostensibly, everyone."

Except…not quite. The GDPR is an ambiguous mess with little clarity and no real utility in defending privacy.

I’m sure that if we dig deep enough we will similarly find examples of where the Jim Crow laws were used for good as well – but there are major issues with using a rare example of decent use as a seal of approval for what is essentially crap law.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...