This is an archived article that was published on in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

I feel bad for the Duchess of Cambridge. While vacationing at a private French residence, Kate's privacy was horribly violated by some $%"&@ with a camera.

Photos of Kate lounging topless immediately turned up in a French magazine. Thanks to the Internet, the photos then were seen by everyone in the world except my mom, my bishop and North Korea in about 30 seconds.

The Royals successfully sued the French magazine to stop publication of the photos, but by then the Italians had them. You can find the photos on any Web site pandering to the public's insatiable appetite for voyeurism.

It would be easy to write off the topless photos of Kate as a cultural misunderstanding regarding dress standards. "Business casual" for you and me translates as "stark naked" in French.

Before the Web, these misunderstandings were settled with a prolonged game of "Yes you did. No I didn't." There was little or no proof beyond that.

But we live in the age of zero secrets. If you've ever done something stupid in front of a lens, or even been recorded against your will, there's a chance it will surface someday.

I have a vague idea of what Kate's going through. I've been wondering when an indiscreet picture of me will turn up online. There's one floating around from an idiot moment during the Age of Polaroid.

Summer 1972. Fort Jackson, S.C. My company returned from a week in the field filthy and exhausted. We headed for the barracks to clean up.

One of the guys in my squad had a new Polaroid camera. As we dumped our gear, Marquat came up with the idea of a candid group photograph. Being tired and mindless teenagers, it seemed like the best idea ever.

Snap/Whir/Click and there we were: second squad, second platoon, Bravo Co. wearing rifles, helmets, camouflage paint and nothing else. Marquat mailed it to his fiancée.

A week later our squad received a nice thank-you note signed by what appeared to be every girl who attended a Long Island bachelorette party.

Over the years I have occasionally wondered about that photo. Had it been destroyed? Was it in a drawer somewhere? A photo album? Did a government agency have it on file?

All that time I never really worried about the photo turning up and becoming a liability because I wasn't anybody important then and I'm a nobody now. Who would go to the trouble of tracking down a single old Polaroid?

Then came the Internet and the very real possibility that the Ft. Jackson photo would surface at some inopportune moment in my life.

KUTV's Mark Koelbel: "The Vietnam-era photo of the armed and naked Pulitzer prize nominee appeared last week in the online version Dimwit Chronicle, where it was …"

I'm a lot more careful now. Not only am I considerably less photogenic than I was 40 years ago, I also have handlers in the form of family and an editor. They don't stop being responsible just because I have.

But the Kate photos should serve as a reminder that we no longer live in a time when privacy is respected. And the past does not stay in the past anymore, especially if you're already world famous.

What happens on the Internet will keep happening the rest of your life, even if you're just some guy on the far right of the second row.

Robert Kirby can be reached at or

comments powered by Disqus