Britain’s Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, wave to staff as they leave Hospis Malaysia, the largest hospice in the country, in Kuala Lumpur September 13, 2012.
Credit: Reuters/Samsul Said
As if there were not enough problems with the nude photos of William and Kate in the French magazine Closer, the Italian magazine Chi published 18 images over 19 pages on Monday of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. While it’s an issue for the Royal Family, there are more basic privacy issues that affect us all.
The Scandalous / Not Scandalous Photos
The defiant editor of Chi, Alfonso Signorini, has already tweeted that “not even a direct call from the Queen” will stop publication. Chi‘s Monday’s cover with three images of a topless princess was already available by Saturday in the Italian press and on TV.
And the headline from Monday’s edition? “Court Scandal: The Queen is Nude!’ This, of course, from an editor who also claimed that:
These pictures are not offensive or in poor taste, they are not morbid and they do not damage the dignity of anyone. (USA Trends)
Clearly some words – perhaps all – have no meaning. Or to put it differently, meaning here is as pixelated as the photos which really don’t reveal all that much.
Good Taste or Not, Royal Nudity is Viral
Obviously, there’s a difference in the latest scandal from the recent situation with Prince Harry in Las Vegas. Those images were not in good taste, there were major security concerns, and one had to wonder about Harry’s own lack of good judgment (Yes, one really had to wonder about the latter). The William and Kate images, already published by Closer and the Irish Daily Star, are just ordinary scenes from their vacation at the Chateau d’Autet, east of Avignon. Okay, most of us don’t stay in a Chateau, but we do the sunbathing part, and in Europe, often topless.
The Royal Family took legal action against the French publication and tried unsuccessfully to stop the Chi publication. But Chi is owned by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who, shall we say, is no friend of moderation. And now interest is coming from other magazines, including some in the United States.
Good taste or bad taste, if people want them, the images will go viral and have a life of their own.
Two Points – the Web and Privacy
Two points here that go beyond the issue of royalty revealing a little flesh.
The House of Windsor ‘s efforts to stop the publication of the photos – through public expressions of dismay and legal action – is essentially futile given that the images are coming online. Even if not directly posted on the tabloid websites, someone will scan them. And once online in the highly distributed network of the Web, you might slow their distribution but it’s near impossible to stop. Once the images are out of the hands of the photographer, your leverage – both moral and legal – is gone.
Secondly, the episode with Harry in Las Vegas and now William and Kate in France is just further confirmation that we are entering a radically different era, one that will challenge our understanding of personal space and public personas. The blurry telephoto images of a Prince and Princess – however offensive to some sensibilities, however pointless to others – are just one more crack in the crumbling dam behind which is a deluge that marks the end of privacy as we know it.
Think this is a major issue? Wait until Google Glass comes out. Are you photographing me? Am I videoing you? Is a corporation analyzing my every move? Our interaction with each other? For an overview of some of the challenges here, see the recent article in The Next Web, “Google’s Project Glass is Cool, But It Raises a Number of Privacy Concerns.”
And the recent news on webcam dating blackmail just adds to the opportunities where you may find yourself in a compromising position.
Celebrities tend to get impacted sooner as they are public figures but we all are stepping into this realm together, one that is remarkable for the reach and access that each of us have not withstanding our physical location, but one that simultaneously undermines the notion of physical space and the individual privacy embedded within it. Back in 2010, Mark Zuckerberg basically announced that privacy as a “social norm” is dead. It was a clarion call to a future that we may not like but seemingly cannot avoid.
The Duke and Duchess are fighting a minor skirmish that – as important as it is to them and others – I suspect will seem laughable a decade from now. So in the words of Prince Harry, it’s time to “keep calm and carry on” over this little kerfuffle, for it’s only the beginning.