Ask be­fore post­ing pho­tos

The London Free Press - - COMMENT - JEF­FREY SEGLIN Jef­frey L. Seglin is a lec­turer in pub­lic pol­icy and di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tion pro­gram at Har­vard’s Kennedy School. Send your ques­tion to right­thing@com­

“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.

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