Your expectations of privacy

BothellSeptember 18, 2012

Both the Kate Middleton pictures and the picture run by a number of newspapers of the dead U.S. ambassador have me doing a lot of thinking about what is private and what isn't. I know that people who are in the public give up a lot of privacy, but the current anything is fair game disturbs me. Between cameras that can take pictures from 500 feet away and so many people carrying cell phones with cameras and photographing anything that moves, we seem to be very unconcerned about our right to privacy. There are some things, situations, people that just shouldn't be published for all to gawk at. Most of us have done something we'd hate to have pictures of shown, for everyone to see. To me this shows a lack of empathy, compassion or caring for others. We all have expectations of some things being private and I don't understand the attitude that anything & everything should be out there to be seen.

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tobr24u(z6 RI)

Advanced technology along with human nature makes everyone fair game. Better be prepared for much more and keep your clothes on and stay out of dangerous situations...

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 4:55AM
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Empathy doesn't mix well with greed, hence the lack of it in such matters. Photos taken of celebrities, regardless how they're obtained, are worth big money... and feed a twisted public that needs to know everyone's business... never mind their own.

I guess that's why we call such publications that print them "tabloid rags", and why they need to be positioned at checkout counters everywhere... because that's the only place folks would notice them.

We should have a reasonable expectation of privacy. I could not imagine being a celebrity or public figure... imagine what someone might have to go through to maintain a reasonable amount of privacy... and even then, you have reporters who don't care and will go to any lengths necessary to snag that one shot.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 6:33AM
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OTOH, the proliferation of privacy-shattering devices (cellphones with cameras built-in) has pretty well eliminated formerly common behaviors that depended on a certain sort of privacy: anonymity. Notably flashing, when was the last time you heard of a flasher? Also, that favorite of teen-agers: prank-calling, eliminated by caller-id. Prank-calling depended on the privacy of anonymity(I have long forgotten the last prank call I ever made, but I won't forget the last one I received, it was very creative and amusing, it's a shame that sort of thing is history).

Really it is anonymity especially that is being eroded or eliminated by technology (in other ways privacy has increased - for example average size of homes is ever larger). Satellite imaging of the planet's surface, where one can now look at an image of a almost any address from above, not only removes a layer of privacy but also a sort of anonymity, before a person lived in some house someplace but now we can know exactly what house with how many vehicles in the driveway. Registries of deeds being online we can now know even the names of the banks that hold someone's mortgage, or who they bought their property from, without leaving the computer.

Modern technology hasn't made Kate's gear any more visible to us, telephoto lenses have been around a long time; it just makes it more difficult for Kate to disappear into a crowd of beachy high-class breasts because her assistant is no doubt twittering non-stop and guess what, paparazzi likely keep a pretty close eye on the twittering.

So no, I don't think free speech should be curtailed or censored because it is ever more difficult to remain anonymous and/or private.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 7:14AM
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As a photographer anyone out in public is fair game.

All of these following examples are perfectly acceptable and legal for you to photograph:
crowded Times Square or city atmosphere
people participating in a parade, demonstration, fair, or concert
a couple holding hands, walking in the park at sunset
students leaned over piles of books, studying at your local public library
neighborhood goings-on, if taken from the public sidewalk
a portrait of a woman, only okay if used in the sense of "editorial content."
an accident or event you stumbled upon (even with intention to sell to the media)
public figureheads president, governors, senators, famous people, shot from public property
If you are on public property: parks, sidewalks, the middle of downtown, libraries, you are allowed to photograph the environment, ambience and situational events as long as they are not government buildings, military property, or nuclear power plants. It is perfectly acceptable to photograph public bridges, and buildings (even if people tell you otherwise, such as "architectural copyright"), statues, public outdoor art, fountains, beaches, churches, etc. as long as you do so while on public property.

in the US, if the subject in the photo is identifiable and you want to sell the image commercially, you will need a signed model release ....unless that person is considered a public figure?

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 8:26AM
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I think there is a difference between privacy for the average person and privacy for celebrities. There is also the concept of stalking and I do think that photographers of celebrities (even momentary ones like someone that is undergoing a high profile court case) cross over into the category of stalking on a regular basis. And that behavior should have consequences.

Cellphone cameras have caught some amazing things - including some crimes - on "tape" and there is some benefit in that.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 8:47AM
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"Those of us who are public officials and are entrusted with the power of the state are ultimately accountable to the public. When we exercise that power in public fora, we should not expect our actions to be shielded from public observation.-Judge Emory A. Plitt, Jr., Maryland v. Graber"

He was talking about videotaping police on their job. I'll add to that, if you do something out in view, don't expect it to be private. But should someone be able to post it so that's spread far and wide? Not without your permission. It's what I keep thinking about Kate. If you're outside, someone WILL see you. But they should've asked her. That's where esh is right. Celebrities should have the same rights, you must ask permission, but obviously, they don't have that right. It's the that old "public" figure thing. Sticky-wicket! That's for certain. Some know good and well they will be public figures, some not so much. Why does making fantastic technology make you a public figure? Or amassing wealth? How did being thrust in the eyes of watching people become a part of that deal? I dunno. I guess I don't worry too deeply as it'll never happen to me!

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 8:59AM
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pictures of the dead haven't been considered private.. we see picturs of dead taliban soldiers all the time, think of the pictures of bonnie & clyde,etc

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 8:59AM
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pictures of the dead would have an editorial appeal & are therefore public. The NY Daily News had truly horrific Mob hit shots for front pages for years.
The photo stalking cases usually set footage guidelines no more as opposed to the actual creeper I got a crush on you stalkings.
We have paparazzi in our front hall outside the lobby whenever Sandra Bullocks in town she has an old town house next door to our apartment building.
All the neighbors give them hell the police won't come for a loitering call. I give her credit she takes him over to the little playground across the street & give him a shot to run around like the rest of the kids.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 9:15AM
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jon_in_wessex(z8/9 UK)

Excerpt from the Editors Code enforced by the Press Complaints Commission in the UK (under review currently following the Enquiry into the Culture, Practices and Ethics of the Press, set up after many privacy and phone hacking scandals):

3 Privacy

i) Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital communications.

ii) Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent. Account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information.

iii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals in private places without their consent.

Note - Private places are public or private property where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Note there is no distinction made for 'celebrities'.

The problem with this system has been that action can only be taken after a complaint is made (and the damage done), and generally has to be pursued through the courts, which is far too expensive for most 'non-celebrities' to attempt. It can also only cover the jurisdiction of the country concerned, and is powerless in the day of the Internet.

Why people want to see this sort of thing is another question entirely.

Best wishes

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 11:25AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

I've seen two video clips on TV this week where onlookers stood and stared, stupidly, like sheep or cattle while an attempted robbery and an attempted murder, respectively, were undertaken. After the situations escalated everyone disappeared, again like a herd of bovines - at this point after it becomes spooked.

In neither instance did anyone attempt to render assistance. To be fair, I have seen other videos where third parties did step in.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 12:00PM
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marquest(z5 PA)

I do not like what has happened to our society in relation to privacy.

But after 9/11 a couple of nude photos of Kate Middleton is the least offense that has and is taking place on average citizens today. If people knew half of the privacy they do not have they would hide under the blankets.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 12:11PM
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john_trussville(z7b AL)

Until recently I had no idea how far our expectations of privacy really extend, legally, at least here in Alabama. A few weeks ago a co-worker related how he & his wife's new neighbors have no qualms about enjoying their backyard pool...totally nude....all day long. Even though the nekkid neighbors have an eight foot privacy fence, the fact that his house is uphill from theirs allows for a clear, unobstructed view down into the their backyard & pool area. Not wanting to cause them any trouble & at the urging of his wife he politely asked that they plant some trees or provide some other type of screening so he wouldn't have to keep hearing his wife complain about their lack of modesty. They didn't seem too eager to comply so, again at his wife's urging, he called the local police dept for any advice & to determine the legality of the neighbors's activities. The police informed that as long as they weren't engaging in any sexual contact or making lewd gestures & as long as they weren't visible from the street there was very little he or they could legally do. Since they had their eight foot privacy fence they were entitled to a reasonable expectation of privacy and they could cavort nude any time of the day. And the police cautioned him to not take any pictures or video, or he could be prosecuted for invasion of privacy.
Since then, he's been busy digging holes and planting leyland cypress, again at the urging of his wife.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 11:31PM
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My expectations of privacy? Zero.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 11:58PM
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Jon in Wessex: Thank you for posting that. To me it seems a very sensible, thoughtful approach to privacy issues. Now if we could get everyone to adopt it & follow it! I know privacy is a changing concept, but I'd hate to see all expectations of privacy gone from our lives. I know cameras, recorders, survellience is everywhere & sometimes that can be good (when a child is approached by a stranger) but I really believe that we all should be able to expect that some of what we do is not for everyone to see.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 12:57AM
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jon_in_wessex(z8/9 UK)

You are welcome.

We had to reach the absolute nadir of journalism to get this review which has already involved the closing of the biggest and oldest mass-circulation rag - the News of the World - and the conviction of several journalists involved in illegal phone hacking, and the recent arrest of a number of former editors and staff, including executives of News International.

The enquiry also covers corrupt relationships between press and government, and press and police.

It will be interesting to see what the enquiry recommends, and what new procedures are brought in to protect the public as well as 'celebrities' and make justice affordable.

All of this came about through perversion of the limits of free expression, freedom of the press and free speech beyond moral acceptability. Morality - to my mind - must always be allowed to temper such absolute 'freedoms', or they just become the freedom to tyrannise the weak.

Best wishes

    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 4:40AM
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Jon, I take that what you mean by perversion is "beyond moral acceptability". That last is subjective. Morals vary, and easily morph into mores.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 7:29AM
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There's a huge difference between private citizen and celebrity when it comes to privacy. No one is chasing me around, parked on the corner by my home, telephoto lens in hand, waiting 24 hours a day to grab that one shot of me exiting my property. No one follows my car, trying to grab a picture or two while I'm shopping, or out in public.

It seems to me as though many celebrities are stalked, followed around day and night, surrounded by a pack of hungry photographers any time they do happen to catch themselves out in public. It's got to get fairly annoying at some point. It's not very surprising to read of camera holders actually being assaulted by celebrities out of sheer aggravation.

While morals might be subjective, and many newspapers and reporters go beyond the boundaries of what's considered moral to obtain some photos, I do still think that we should expect a modicum of personal privacy... at least behind our own closed doors, and on our phones.

Listening in on phone calls, or going beyond the boundaries of what's legal to collect a photo or a conversation is something we, as citizens, should have a right to expect protection from.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 9:31AM
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jon_in_wessex(z8/9 UK)

But Jodi, it is all too easy for an 'ordinary citizen' to become a celebrity, through no wish of their own. Among the 51 'victims' taken as examples in the Enquiry were the unfortunate parents of children who had disappeared, including a couple who were accused by the papers of having murdered their daughter; a personal assistant to a supermodel who lost her livelihood, and nearly her sanity, through press persecution; the author JR Rowling who throughout her career has rejected publicity; friends and family of politicians and many others.

As far as a consensus on morality, I assure you there comes a point where a society recognises and is repelled by certain behaviour carried out in the name of 'freedom of the press' - because that is what has happened in my country. I agree that it is pointless to expect other societies to draw the line in the same place, but hope that each can respect the other's stand for situations in their own jurisdiction.

Absolute freedom of speech and expression is curtailed on a daily basis in the United States - this forum is an example. We generally agree to a set of moral norms in our behaviour to each other and the acceptability of certain subjects, yet the restrictions placed on us by the proprietors of this website probably could be challenged in court as breaching your (not my) First Amendment rights. Or do I also have such rights when posting on an American website? If you write a comment on an English blog or forum that is acceptable in the US but not in the UK, are they within their rights to reject it? Or to accept it? It's a can of worms!

That's why I am always the soul of discretion, good manners and moral rectitude when posting to this forum :)

Best wishes

    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 11:06AM
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