Should undie secrets stay under cover?
OH the pain of headline writers when someone steals their gag. The story was bra fitters Rigby & Peller losing their royal warrant after its owner wrote a book mentioning her famous clients.
The subs went through the motions with the likes of “Palace bust-up”, “Stripped”, and “Royals get knickers in a twist over book”, but the cliche they all wanted to use, Storm in a D-Cup, had already been snapped up by June Kenton, who used it as the title of her book, published last year.
The Palace, as is customary, would not comment on royal warrants. Nor would the Kenton family go into detail. But Mrs Kenton’s daughter, Jill, said her mother was “devastated”. She added: “The book was not a kissand-tell. It was a kind, gentle memoir. She is not disloyal”. Her mother told the Telegraph: “The book doesn’t contain anything naughty. But it’s a fact I have done work for the Queen. There would be a gaping hole if I didn’t mention it.”
Looking at some of the book’s content, one can sympathise. At one point, seeing the skies darken outside, the Queen expresses the hope it won’t rain as she has 8,000 people coming for tea. Oh, and she asks for the Corgis to be brought in (“Raingate” again). Then there is the conversation with the Queen Mother in which Mrs Kenton tells her she looked wonderful in a lilac outfit. “It was rather nice, wasn’t it?” the QM replied. I hardly think the writers of The Crown have anything to worry about.
But the question remains whether Mrs Kenton should have written the book at all. Did not the Queen, and other famous clients, including Cherie Blair (who insisted on Mrs Kenton coming to Number 10) have a right to expect privacy? At the risk of sounding like Lady Mary from Downton Abbey, should not the relationship between a woman and her bra fitter be like the old one between valet and employer? No man was a hero to his valet, but secrets by and large stayed secret.
As we go about our daily business we are vaguely aware of data protection regulations, if only because we run up against them ourselves. We believe we can count on privacy from the obvious quarters, the health services, our employers, and such like. But what about family and friends on Facebook? Or hairdressers, mechanics, colleagues, that person, armed with a smartphone, who sees you slip on the ice and thinks it would be a laugh to post a pic?
We have never been more concerned with our privacy at the same time as we have rushed to give away information about ourselves. The internet is one vast trawler net, pulling in shoals of details and depositing them on the decks of search engines which use them as bait to catch even more info. Ever wonder why all those ads for handbags or holidays in Spain keep popping up every time you go on to a page? They’ve got your number all right. Pound for pound of data, the web probably knows more about you than the Inland Revenue. Isn’t that a chilling thought?
Yet what a fuss is made if some dippy civil servant leaves a laptop on the train, or an absent-minded Minister becomes the umpteenth glaikit member to walk out of 10 Downing Street with their notes on show. We would be smarter than that, would we not? We wouldn’t store personal details on our computers, and keep using the same passwords, usually the dog’s name, for donkeys’ years?
Such is our willingness to share, employers are getting in on the act. Hitachi, for example, invented sensor badges to measure the happiness of its workers, as expressed in how much they moved around, talked to others, took a break, etc. Believing a happy worker to be a better performing one, the firm then advised staff, via a phone app, how to improve their working day. Performance duly rose. But what if a less benign employer deployed similar devices to root out underperforming workers, or to spy on staff in other ways?
It is too late now to put the genie back in the bottle, particularly on the internet, which can hold on to our data even after we are dead. But without going full off -the-grid, cabin-in-the-woods paranoid, it would not hurt to be more questioning when we are asked questions. Instead of “What would you like to know?” let the default position be “Who wants to know and why?”
As for the fitting of bras, and other items of clothing, that will soon be done by robots. They won’t write books (not yet, anyway), but the idea that your secrets are safer with a hunk of metal than some nice lady who worked hard, built a successful business, and wrote affectionately about her famous clients, is crazy.