It wasn’t an invasion of privacy for the Mail on Sunday to go undercover to report on people offering to trade living accommodations for sex because the reporting was in the public interest, the UK press regulator the Independent Press Standards Organisation ruled.
IPSO received a complaint from one of the men pictured and named in the Mail on Sunday‘s March story, “Exposed: The Sex for Rent Landlords.” The article quoted a Ministry of Justice spokesperson stating that “offering accommodation in return for sex is illegal.” iMediaEthics has written to the Mail.
The man who complained was upset that he was named and photographed in the story and that the Mail on Sunday‘s reporter didn’t identify herself as a reporter. However, the Mail explained it decided to approach him because he posted an advertisement saying he would provide “free accommodation for [a] female…in exchange for your intimacy and companionship.”
The Mail told IPSO it began investigating to see if anyone was breaking the the new law banning trading sex for accommodations and found advertisements that it decided to look into. The Mail told IPSO its reporter responded to the man’s advertisement and he “made unprompted references to sex acts,” according to IPSO. The Mail argued it was in the public interest to warn and inform the public, and that the photo of the man was in public.
IPSO agreed that it was necessary for the Mail to go undercover to investigate and noted that the Mail used “a very low level of subterfuge.”