Ask before posting photos
“Arlene,” a woman from Boston, was invited to a gathering of community organizations in her area. The gathering was held in the backyard of a private residence not far from where Arlene lives.
For many years Arlene has wanted to get more involved in her community so she was glad to attend the gathering.
After some small talk and snacks, speakers from the various organizations spoke to the assembled group about their missions and what opportunities there were for people to get involved.
Arlene gathered some literature on some of the organizations so she could follow up.
But Arlene was surprised a few days later when a friend told her she had seen her photo posted on someone’s social media site, which was accessible for the general public to see.
The note accompanying the post identified the event.
“No one ever asked me for permission to post my photo,” Arlene writes. “I didn’t even know anyone was taking photos.”
Arlene wants to know if the poster was wrong to post the photo of her and a few others without securing their permission.
As I’ve mentioned often, I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t speak definitively about the legality of posting someone’s photo without permission. Laws vary from country to country. In the United States, generally taking someone’s photo in a public place is fair game, but in a private setting it’s not. Given that this was a public meeting in a private setting, I’ll let the lawyers sort out the legalities.
But from an ethical standpoint, the photographer should have sought permission of people in the photo prior to posting it online. People have a right to expect to have some control of whether their images are posted on social media.
If the poster was from one of the organizations, then that person should have mentioned that photos were being taken of the event. If it was posted by another attendee, he or she should have taken the time to seek out permission.
Not everyone wants the world to know where they’ve been at any given moment of the day without their consent. But common courtesy would dictate that if you plan to post someone’s visage on your social media site which is accessible to the general public, the right thing is to let that someone know.
It’s perfectly reasonable for Arlene to ask the friend who notified her to ask the poster of the photo to take it down. Perhaps receiving this message would remind the poster that while he might not care about his own privacy that doesn’t give him the right to decide for others about theirs.