Expectation of Privacy

What expectation of privacy means to the individual can vary wildly. I’m in the middle of yet another Twitter discussion with a photographer about the subject of posting photos publicly. It started because I shared a link to this article about a photographer’s bill of rights card, and commented that they’d forgotten one: in my opinion the photographer should ask permission before slapping those photos of people online, and if even one person says no, even in  a group shot, they must honor that and keep them private.

Your photo can have serious repercussions for people.  So many seem to forget that so often. The abused woman who has finally started her life over in a new city, and finally ventures out of the house, only to have her photo snapped and posted on Facebook for her stalking ex to see and use to find her (especially if the photographer carelessly has geolocation turned on). Should she have stayed home for the rest of her life and never gone to a business networking event because you don’t want to be restricted in your art? The new employee who’s boss has made it clear that even though he is sure he is being responsible, even one photo of them at a party holding a beer can result in termination. So even though they are drinking responsibly, having that one beer then switching to soda like they said they would, they should pay for your art with their job? These examples are just the tip of the iceberg.

Of course, every time I have the discussion about my own definition of expectation of privacy, it causes photographers grief.  Let me be clear – I make no bones about preferring to be left in peace to network or enjoy my friends without wanting my photo taken when I’m at a public event. I’m equally clear about not wanting photos that may be taken anyway posted without my permission. I tell that to photographers at events in the first five seconds of meeting them. Then I go on and do what I came there to do, often surprising the photographer in following days with a take down request if they don’t listen and ask before sharing. I’m not shy about being vocal about what I consider my right to control my own privacy without having to be a hermit. I’m always amazed at the people who hear me do all of this and are surprised you are “allowed” to request folks a) not take your photo b) remove it form view if necessary. Of  course you are! Speak up!

Photographers, rather than continue to go back and forth unproductively on this, is there something we can both do to foster change here? I don’t hate photos or photographers or even having my photo taken, I just resist having it plastered all over the web carelessly. I resist the consequences your photos can have for less savvy people if where you share them isn’t thought through. To me the resistance to the simple request to just ask folks if they want to be online (or be photographed at all) is a bit unnerving. After all, we often say yes. Will we reach common ground?

What is your personal definition of privacy when it comes to photos and photographers?


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Uptown Uncorked, Leslie Poston. Leslie Poston said: Recently Uncorked Expectation of Privacy http://bit.ly/bvtFae […]

  2. geechee_girl September 6, 2010

    Along the same vein, how will technology like this retina scan enabled city affect folks who need to be out of the public eye for safety reasons, etc? http://thetechjournal.com/tech-news/mexican-city-installing-eye-scanners-to-track-people-is-this-the-end-of-privacy.xhtml

  3. JP Burke September 6, 2010

    I think your solution is best, asking not to be photographed and then asking to take the photos down. It seems to solve the problem because it is an individual case problem. People should be understanding when they receive such a request, since it is absolutely reasonable. But I think it is also reasonable to assume that most people don’t mind being photographed.

  4. geechee_girl September 6, 2010

    Folks get really angry when I ask them to take a photo down. It surprises me.

  5. JP Burke September 6, 2010

    I once deleted (not took down, deleted) about 10 photos from a party because a friend of mine said afterwards that she didn’t want to be in photographs. Those pix are completely gone.

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