Tuesday, 6 December 2011

are photographs private?

in another lesson of "be-careful-where-you-get-photographed-you-don't-know-where-it-might-end-up", i found that this photo of me at community radio hamilton's end of year function ended up on the back page of the waikato times:

it's not that i mind where it ended up, but it just got me thinking about privacy and how much we're now used to not having much of it. i tend to be reasonably private about my life. i don't put many details on the internet, certainly not on social networking sites. but a camera is something that you really can't control. people can take photos of you at any time without your consent and publish them anywhere.

i find facebook really difficult in that regard. i've never put a single photo of myself on facebook but there are 40 photos tagged to my page. a good number of those don't even have me in them - i'd say only a quarter of them do. and i know i could remove the tags, but i don't want to do that because at least then i know who has put the photo up & what's been said about it.

i don't think a single one of the people putting up my photograph have asked for my consent. when the photo above was taken, i had no idea that the photographer was from the paper. or if he wasn't, that the photographs would be forwarded to the local paper. again, i don't mind any of these photos being circulated and don't want them taken down, but it bothers me that as a society, we have so little etiquette around the use photographs. we seem to assume that if a person consents to a photograph, that gives implied consent that this photograph is publicly available. even photographs taken without the consent of the subject are assumed to be publicly available.

it's probably a result of the celebrity culture and mags that will publish photos taken at any time by anyone of a "saleable" celebrity. and because their privacy means nothing, and because so many of us consume that invasion of privacy, we probably then accept that we can't be picky about our own. except that i don't buy those magazines and i've really minimised my reading of them, even in the extreme boredom of waiting to see my GP. i don't ever click on the entertainment bits of media websites, and i avoid watching shows like "entertainment tonight". in other words, i do try to consciously avoid that celebrity culture as much as i can. but that doesn't mean that i can escape its effects.

of course this is all low-level intrusion that hasn't caused me any personal harm. i can't even imagine what it must be like for people to have their hospital records passed to the public by staff trying to earn money; or to have phone conversations recorded and repeated; to having their rubbish bins searched. listening to the tales of the media inquiries in britain has been quite sad. i wonder though if there will be any significant change as a result of them.

until we stop consuming such stuff and filling the coffers of those who produce it, i very much doubt it.

1 comment:

Brett Dale said...

Had the same problem, some pranksters thought it would be a good idea to use a photo I had on my facebook page and put it elsewhere on the internet.

Apparently once a photo is on the internet its public domain, unless copywrited by the owner.