Like the Reichstag building in Berlin, transparency has become a vital aspect to the reputation of a brand, organisation and/or individual. In public relations professions, the value of transparency and the corresponding weight of ethical practice weighs heavily on your professional reputation and the relationships you sustain in the industry. Professionals understandably seem to take this idea of transparency and honesty to extreme heights, and it’s when the lines of honesty and privacy blur that conflict starts brewing.
Where extremes are taken, the law has not yet completely caught up in reprimanding said violators, which mirrors a similar case regarding the misuse of drones to follow and document the movements of individuals, in particular celebrities. Evidently, ‘civilians are concerned with their privacy’ (Tate 2016, p.80) and ethical practice must be respected by all, adhering to the need to uphold ‘privacy, sanctity of law and public space, safety, and newsworthiness’ (2016, p.80). For public relations professionals, there is thankfully a unique ‘intersection of the right of publicity with many other branches of law’ and thus ‘protects individuals from commercial harm caused by misappropriation of their likeness’ (2016, p81). The opportunities and threats of surveillance in public relations professions are insurmountable, for where one might find it productive to keep customers actively aware of news and new products, others may fear the rise in transparency as irreversible and dishonest. The unique characteristics of publicity make the value of surveillance very powerful and useful to the promotion of one’s own personal brand and celebrity status, as ‘the right of publicity presents an intriguing and viable protection from journo-drones collecting unauthorised personal images and recordings’ (2016, p.99).
The exciting potentials for the extensive use of surveillance in publicity really illuminates the movements in advancements of technology, however ‘skepticism about [the] chilling effects’ (Penney, 2016, p.121) of unlawful and subtle surveillance has created a deep level of anxiety amongst the public. Where optimists praise the ability for surveillance to support and monitor the elderly or defend the abused, pessimists are skeptic over the ‘increasing public acceptance of, or desensitization to, privacy and surveillance’ (2016, p.122). This desensitization is of growing concern particularly with public relations, where unethical practice and unlawful communication continue without concern for the growing present consequences. Whether it is a fellow practitioner, a journalist or a member of the public that reads a media release, PR professionals continually seem to disregard ethical communication, reverting instead to false and manipulative content.
For this reason, the growing force of digital surveillance is set to guide public relations professions down the ethical road, where active online participation, transparency and lawful practise are the only acceptable movements to be made. This arguably destructive power of surveillance will, therefore deplete the room for lies and manipulation where ‘certain state acts may chill or deter people from exercising their freedoms or engaging in legal activities’ (Penney 2016, p.126). Although this could create a painfully crowded and dull world, the protection against deceit and unlawful communication seems invaluable.
Penney, JW 2016, ‘CHILLING EFFECTS: ONLINE SURVEILLANCE AND WIKIPEDIA USE’, Berkeley Technology Law Journal, 31, 1, pp. 117-182, Legal Source, EBSCOhost, viewed 2 August 2016.
Tate, A 2016, ‘Miley Cyrus and the Attack of the Drones: The Right of Publicity and Tabloid Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems’, Texas Review Of Entertainment & Sports Law, 17, 1, pp. 73-99, SPORTDiscus with Full Text, EBSCOhost, viewed 2 August 2016.