Why the Princess Kate pictures should scare business

Never mind the economy and the euro, the world has been gripped by the the fallout from pictures of the next Queen of England sunbathing topless and their publication, first in a French magazine and then in Ireland.

a cartoon of a person howling and a wrecking ball about to hit them, while the lab rat shouts: watch outBut set aside your moral outrage for a moment and your desire to see paparazzi (oh to heck with it, all journalists) roasted on a spit. Every action has an equal and opposite action. The impact of the topless shots has been huge.

What’s about to hit us at speed and coming in the opposite direction?

Notice how I suddenly snuck the the word ‘us’ in there?

I just want you to get down from your ivory tower or moral high ground and take a moment with me in a world where politicians jerk their knees in time with popular opinion and legislation around the world seems to be pumped out at unseemly speed simply to answer the question Joe Public likes to ask: “What does the government propose to do about it? That’s what I want to know.”

Leveson

I’ve been watching the Leveson inquiry in the UK since its start. There is no doubt that what happened in the Milly Dowler case required thorough and impartial investigation and that the system of press self-policing was not working.

But the remit of Leveson is much much broader than the tragedy and its immediate implications. Over 100 days of hearing evidence and at a cost of £4 million. An angry population and a government that would like some big wins. This is a dangerous combination.

Now a beautiful young princess has been treated shoddily (by the press again) and the Royals have gone into bat in French courts. More publicity focused on… what exactly? The press? Or how they are allowed to handle information?

Press versus other use

And if in order to deal with the press (and remember, this a global issue) you alter access to and the punishment for inappropriate information use, how do you differentiate press use from other use?

I used to be a journalist many years ago, but I am considering the above question as both someone who advises on content and its governance and as business woman. Me. I’m troubled.

I’m firmly convinced that the fallout from Kate, the final scope of the Leveson report and the the current concerns around both cyber theft and privacy could provoke poorly constructed laws and regulations that we will all feel the impact of.

Poor laws are cumbersome to stay on top of. They suck resources. They trip us up. We all handle, trade and store personal information – facts, figures, names, addresses, pictures… We’re not immune from what’s going on. The full impact just hasn’t hit us yet.

There’s something coming and even without my glasses on I can see I don’t like the look of it at all.