The winter series of Love Island has begun. For anyone who has managed to escape this madness for the last five series, this is a reality television show where a group of ‘Islanders’ live in isolation in a villa with their every move recorded. The attractive young Islanders have to couple up, and there is fierce competition when certain couples or individuals are put to a public eviction vote. Along the way the producers set challenges, create love triangles, and send in new Islanders with even better bodies and smaller swimsuits, until one couple is crowned victorious, receiving a multi-thousand pound prize and a raft of fashion and beauty collaborations to sustain what might otherwise be short-lived fame.
The law is familiar with cases where a famous person has courted publicity but later seeks to limit public and press intrusion. The law of privacy has developed to navigate this increasingly complicated area, to account for the changes made by the internet and social media in particular. Injunctions and super-injunctions have been granted to stop the publication of private information: preventing the public from ever finding out what happened or – in the case of the super-injunction – the identity of the parties.
So when is information protected? To answer this the courts have to balance two rights that come from the European Convention on Human Rights: on the one hand, an individual’s privacy rights (as protected by Article 8) and on the other hand, the right to freedom of expression (as protected by Article 10).
The balancing of these two conflicting rights is at the heart of privacy law: when we live our lives in a private way, without exposing or monetising our homes, bodies, relationships or families, Article 8 is likely to trump Article 10. But what happens when an individual throws open parts of their private life to public consumption?
A traditional celebrity might secure publicity through magazine coverage for a wedding or pregnancy, appearance at public events with their children, or write a book about their life or career. In the case of an Islander, they are throwing open some of the most private emotional and physical aspects of a relationship, in swimwear, for eight weeks on our television screens. Meanwhile, gossip columns flourish on images and stories from Islanders’ lives inside the villa, but also on tales told by previous partners, family and friends about life before the villa. The risk? That previously private individuals have suddenly opened the doors of their private lives to the public, and so to the press.
This legal balancing exercise might be different for different areas of a public figure’s life. Recently both the Duchess of Sussex and Ben Stokes have tried to limit public access to certain parts of their private lives. The press should take caution from these incidents (which have led to the commencement of privacy litigation) and should be careful not to assume that just because someone is in the public eye, they have invited us in to every part of their private lives.
We are not all celebrities or reality television stars, but we all have the protection of Article 8 when it comes to our private lives. So whether you are an up and coming star, a blogger, or just a regular user of Instagram sharing funny or intimate pieces of your everyday life, think carefully about what information you disseminate and how widely that information is being publicised.