Monday, June 22, 2009

New technology and the right to privacy - No, you do not have the right to take my kid's picture

Yesterday was one of those rare days when I could run to Trader Joe's (and I use the term "run" very loosely since I might have broken my baby toe the day before) with only CC in tow, leaving Chicky behind to have a Father's Day cartoon-fest at home with her dad.

Going to the supermarket with two kids is a drag. Going to the supermarket with only one kid seems like a vacation in comparison. So since I hadn't made it to the store the day before (again, broken toe), Sunday was my day to market shop to gather all necessary food and sundries necessary to keep our family of four alive and not killing each other ("Moooom, Daddy at the rest of the cereal and now I have noooone."). Not to mention I needed the makings for that evenings Father's Day feast of goodness. Or as I like to call it, Chicken Piccata.

CC, despite having her one thousandth and one head cold of the year, was in good spirits and since I could brace myself on the shopping cart, taking some weight off of my now blackened toe, I was too. So as we walked down the narrow aisles I sang songs and she clapped and made faces. We were, in a word, pretty freaking adorable to watch. No really. No extreme maternal bias at all.

As I oogled the many premade and frozen culinary delights TJ's has to offer, a young woman walked up to us and remarked on whatever silly face CC was making at the moment. Since I was deciding between spanakopita and the chipotle chicken skewers, I wasn't really paying close attention.

(Note to self: no more grocery shopping while hungry. Or else you will yet again come home with two different flavors of ice cream and a large box of Asian barbecue beef instead of the broccoli and apples you went there for. Also, you won't be watching closely when strange people approach your very cute and very innocent baby. But I digress.)

The woman then proceeded to take out her camera phone to take a picture of my child.

Without my permission.

But before I could say, Hold on there, Snappy McSnapperson, CC stopped making whatever picture-worthy face that was there a minute before and instead stared at this strange person with a face I can only assume looked exactly like mine at that moment - a combination ofslack-jawed confusion and slight repulsion at this woman, who really couldn't have been any more than 25 years old, who was about to take an unauthorized picture of an unknown child.

The one thing that crossed my mind as I mumbled something about, Oops, oh well, the face is gone so we're going to move along now - after imagining myself punching her in the face - was, Wow, the BALLS on that woman. The second thought - after imagining myself making her eat her camera phone - was that she was probably a blogger.

I'm only partly kidding about that.

Maybe this is hypocritical of me since I do share my children's photos on the internet with, you know, strangers and, OMG, maybe there's a pedophile out there who stumbled across my blog and found the pictures of my child making dead fish faces and now he's COMING TO GET US...


... But I don't believe that some random person who hasn't even been properly introduced to me should whip out a camera and start taking pictures while we're in the frozen foods section of the supermarket.

This is my website so I decide what goes on it. I decide what pictures I want to share with the world. For the love of Pete, even at Chicky's preschool we were asked to sign a waiver authorizing the use of our children's likeness on their website and I've pledged my undying love for those people.

Of course, I have no idea what that young woman was going to do with the picture after she took it. Show it to her roommate maybe? Her mom? Her gynecologist? I don't know. Chances are, it would have been stored in her phone until the following weekend when drunken naked pictures needed to be taken at the raging party at her sister's boyfriend's apartment and then it would have been deleted to make more room. Because her best friend Bob passed out and drooling on the bathroom floor takes precendence, you know?

Whatever she was or wasn't going to do with it, the bottom line (or maybe I shold say, point 1) is this: Do our children have a right to privacy even when their parents are plastering their image all over the internet?

I say yes. But does that hold any water from a legal standpoint?

Like I said, I have no idea what the woman... okay, girl. What the girl was going to do with this picture. Probably nothing. What bothered me the most was that she was taking a picture of a minor child without express permission of the child's parent who just happened to be standing right there. What she was going to do with the photograph after the fact was anybody's guess.

I was a Communications major in college. I graduated with a degree in Broadcast Communications with a minor in journalism so I know the rights a private citizen has in public vs. private spaces in regard to print and broadcast. What I don't know, and maybe someone can clue me in, is what happens in this digital age of blogs and personal websites and social networking sites to that private citizen's rights (especially a private citizen who is a minor) when anyone with the most basic technology can snap a picture or take a video and make it available to anyone with a computer.

One who appropriates to his own use or benefit the name or likeness of another is subject to liability to the other for invasion of privacy.

Restatement (Second) of Torts, § 652C

But believe it or not, the main point of this post (Point 2) is not to bring light to the legalities of online media, whether it be personal or professional, but to ask this question:

Have we gotten a little snap happy now that we have digital cameras, camera phones, and video cameras that can be stored in your back pocket? Have we as a race of people lost our good sense and grasp of basic manners (if we had them at all) in regard to taking pictures of people, minor or not, and putting them on public websites or simply sharing them with friends and strangers?

How many times have you seen something that an unknown person was doing that struck you as funny and you took our your iPhone to take a picture? A picture that you eventually uploaded to Twitter or some other site? Did you take a picture that showed the person's face? Did you show them in a comprimising light?

How far is too far?

Before I'm seen as preachy I will tell you that I have taken pictures like that before. While getting a pedicure, for instance, I joked on Twitter that the woman painting my toes had an impressive rack. I then proceeded to take her picture without her knowing it, thinking maybe I would share it via TwitPic or something. Then I deleted it because I came to my senses. And that woman was an adult, not a 12 month old minor child.

CC was not doing anything out of the ordinary and there's a good chance that girl wasn't going to sell my child's likeness for monetary gain but still, it bothered me that she was so bold as to think she could take my child's picture without getting permission. Have we lost our good sense as a society because technology has become so easy? Now that we have access to pretty much everything has our voyeuristic tendencies gone crazy?

I'd like to know what you think.


TwoBusy said...

I was about to make some very thoughtful and brilliant point when you went ahead and reminded me about that photo of your pedicurist's rack that you never published.

And now I'm all bitter again.

(To summarize: photos of other people's kids? No. Other people's cleavage? Um...)

Chicky Chicky Baby said...

TwoBusy - Men. They can take any serious subject and make it about boobs.

Caroline said...

I actually have had an experience with this in real life. My mom and I were shopping last Christmas, and while we were wandering around the shoe department we saw an adorable little girl (maybe around 2 years old) wandering around with two different sized shoes from the sale rack.

I pointed her out to my mom and we had a moment of "OMG! Too cute!!" and then my mom wanted me to snap a picture with my camera phone. I flat out refused because, seriously, that is CREEPY to do (even if she was ADORABLE). In the end my mom went up to her mother and asked if it was ok, she said yes, and we took a picture of the back of her.

Even WITH her mother's permission I felt awkward doing it. But the picture is freakin cute.

Maybe this girl just had no sense of personal boundaries?

MisaGracie said...

Do you think it was her being ballsy or just being clueless? We remember a time before digital cameras and computers that fit in your hand - maybe the younger generations just take this invasion of privacy as standard operating procedure.

I think that - no matter the parents profession or celebrity status - the kids should be off-limits.

J from Ireland said...

I would think she was a nutcase and ask her to delete it. I find this weird, why would you want to take a photo of a strangers child??

Cate said...

Stranger taking pictures without asking permission? Yeah, that's weird.

I don't even like to post pictures of, say, my kid's preschool field trip, because it seems wrong to put other people's kids online without permission. My own kids, well, they'll have to just deal with it.

My digital camera broke recently, and I had a moment of panic. Then we went away for the weekend, cameraless, and it was a really different feeling -- in a good way -- not to be able to snap pix all the time. Enjoying the moment, blah blah.

Lucy-Fur, as typed by Dr. Liz said...

Yeah, it's weird. I have taken pictures of people that I have emailed to my husband, but never posted strangers' faces. And generally warn my friends when they are going to have their pictures posted for the world to see. (I figured that they would like to be forewarned that they might possibly find themselves on the internet surrounded by beer bottles while reading instruction manuals...)

Sarah @ said...

I think MisaGracie has a point. If you do not remember a time when people did not tote about digital cameras and camera phones everywhere, you might assume that the invasion of privacy is perfectly normal. I had this discussion with someone recently where I pointed out that someone ten years older than them would have had trouble finding employment if a standard background check resulted in drunken Facebook pictures. But give it another few years and it probably won't be a big deal because the people doing the hiring had drunken Facebook pictures once upon a time as well. I think it's the same sort of philosophy there, that technology is changing the culture and what is seen as appropriate or inappropriate behavior.

Second, this isn't something I ever really thought about until about two years ago when my SIL found out that someone in her family had posted a photograph of her child - with a caption detailing her child's name - on some social networking site or another. Because of that incident, my husband and I have a photo policy. We don't post pictures of anyone else's children, pets, property, or identifying information on the Internet, regardless of whether we are strangers or best friends or family. There are very few exemptions from the rule and in all cases, we ask permission, and none of those cases involve children. I also will not take any pictures of other peoples' kids unless they're family or friends and I have permission, because I would want them to respect my children the same way.

I might be overly cautious, but it prevents me from making the mistake that the girl in your grocery made. I hope that it doesn't happen again!

Anonymous said...

Oh gosh. I'm think her behavior was just rude and ridiculous, but she probably didn't realize that she was overstepping her boundaries.

Mrs. N said...

Definitely weird, and I'm not sure how I'd feel if it were my child.

Sarah said...

I agree that she was definitely overstepping a boundary and at the least she didn't use her "please" and "thank you", and as a 33 year old parent, I totally get how this is a BIG invasion of privacy. BUT, as a 20-something, childless youth? I'm guessing she just didn't think it through very far. In another ten years she'll probably smack her head and wonder what she was thinking.

Anonymous said...

I would've asked her to delete the photo immediately and read her the riot act.

Heather said...

Wow, that is a whole lotta weird. I don't post photos of minors on my blog without the parents' permission. Or, I block out their faces.

I don't think I've ever even taken a photo of even an adult that I don't know for my blog. If I did, I would not show their faces. I have recently posted a photo of my adult friends and didn't ask them, but most of them posted similar photos on their blogs too.

I'm tempted to go back to college and re-take Mass Comm Ethics and Law just to see what they're teaching about these new technologies.

Amy Sue Nathan @ Suburban Kvetch said...

I'm paranoid - not only do I rarely post photos of my kids, but their names are mentioned only on my Facebook page, to which I approve each person who even looks at my profile - there's nothing public about it - even with how ever many "friends" I have.

I would freak if someone did that to one of my kids - and I would tell them to delete it or I'd call the police. Yeah, I can get carried away.

You didn't know that about me, did you? ;)

Heather @CritterChronicles said...

Hmmm. Well, okay, maybe I'm in the minority here, but *I* don't think it's that big of a deal. I'm also living in Japan right now, where we are the minority, and Caucasian kids - particularly tow-headed kids (which mine are not) - are looked at with favor. They LOVE babies here. LOVE them. So very often when we're out in public I see locals taking pictures of my children. Sometimes they ask; right after we moved here we were eating in a restaurant and a young Japanese woman came up to us, pointed at my son, and in broken English asked if she could hold him while taking his picture. So we let them.

I don't feel it's a big deal, but that's because I've done a lot of international traveling. In countries where I know that taking someone's picture isn't taboo, I'll surreptitiously snap a photo of someone doing something interesting. I don't ask before or after.

I do post pictures of my kids' friends on my blog without asking their parents, but I don't name them. I'm also not posting pictures that could be construed as anything other than kids playing.

Maybe that's me not having good enough boundaries. Maybe it's me not having enough respect for other people's personal space. But I'm willing to bet there are pictures out there of me that I have no knowledge of, because I can't stop every person from taking pictures from a distance without my knowledge. Or of my kids. Which is why I try to stay on my best behavior outside my home. (What I do inside my home, though, is another story.) ;-)

All Things BD said...

I'm somewhere in the middle on this one. Yeah, she should have asked you, but if she was young, then there you go. No concept of personal space or privacy-it's just the generation, I think. A gentle explanation of why that's not cool would hopefully clue her in.

I post my kids' pics online all the time, and I try to keep us anonymous, but my fear isn't from internet predators-it's from the local grocery store clerk who sees me every day, can get my name from credit card receipts and hears me yelling out my kids' names every week.

SciFi Dad said...

Erm, if the toe is blackened, someone may have to go John Abruzzi from S1 of Prison Break on your ass.

As for the photo thing, I think that Miss Gracie's point about the modern pervasiveness is valid: taking photos is far more common today than when we were kids; the advent of digital imaging means no "wasted" film, so kids get cameras earlier, more pictures are taken, etc.

However, people have a right to privacy, so I completely disagree with Heather's position, especially posting images of other people's kids without permission, regardless of intent or content.

The only time I snap a photo of someone else without permission is incidental (I'm trying to catch a shot of my daughter at a splash pad and another kid is running behind her, for example) and if I ever publish that photo online, I make sure that part of the frame is cropped out or obscured.

Bottom line, I would have demanded to see that person's phone to ensure that I hadn't missed them snapping a photo earlier, and if they refused, I would have suggested we see store security and/or the police to discuss the matter further. There are too many creepy people out there.

karengreeners said...

The easy access to technology has turned us into a society that thinks it is, therefore, entitled to use that technology, with no regards to personal boundary.

I mean, you probably had at least 4 cameras on you - the girl's, the supermarket's, one the government put up on the corner that the supermarket is on, and then, if you want to go macro, google earth had you pegged too.

I'm not trying to sound paranoid, but plenty of people are taking our picture without permission.

mamatulip said...

I know we live in a real technological, no-privacy day and age here, one that I participate vigorously in. But it would REALLY bother me if someone took a picture of my child without my permission. In front of me. I just would not sit well with me at all.

Everydaytreats said...

Perhaps I'm paranoid, but I feel like posting pictures online is akin to handing them out to strangers. And the thought of strangers owning pictures of me or my kids just freaks me out.

I rarely post pictures on my blog for that very reason. (And when I do, I tend to watermark the hell out of them.)

Hello, I am a luddite.

However, I very much enjoy looking at other people's pictures.

Sarahviz said...

I'm with you. It would have made me extremely uncomfortable. And I would have blogged about it.

Amy Urquhart said...

I ask even my close friends before I take pictures of their kids. I think a lot of what you experienced has to do with a whole shift in cultural norms...for this girl it's completely normal to photograph anything with a camera phone. Not cool, though.

Julie @ The Mom Slant said...

This is totally fascinating to me. I hadn't considering how ubiquitous cameras are now, but that's an excellent point.

Still, I probably would have been a little taken aback. Like someone else said, "please" and "thank you" at bare minimum would have been advisable.

Hannah said...

It would have made me uncomfortable, entirely. You were standing right there - it would have taken only seconds for her to ask your permission (and perhaps explain what on earth she wanted the picture for).

I have to ask, would some of the other commenters still be comfortable with it if the photographer was a man?

Magpie said...

It seems weird and clueless, but not necessarily evil.

And, in my opinion, going to the supermarket alone IS a vacation.

Jessica B. Howell said...

A lot of angles have been discussed here, and I have to say I have this problem often. My daughter is mixed race, and people regularly stop to do both things -- ask to take her photo, or take it without asking.

I'm the nut who, if I catch you (a STRANGER!) taking a photo without asking, will kindly ask you what the hell you were thinking and to hand me your phone/camera.

At the same time, I do selectively post pics of her, and I do use her first name...and I've wondered about my decision to do those things more than once.

You've inspired me to return to a drafted blog post from months ago. Thanks for your honesty, as always, and for bringing this issue up for discussion!

Elle Dubya said...

it would have weirded me out too having someone take my kids pic w/out asking first. i think it's different with kids than it is adults - and i too had to have a mental shift when i read about the rack shot. i'd have probably taken it too - 5 mins after chiding someone for getting all snap-happy with my kid. i guess each situation is different...

Dyar Baby Momma said...

I think I'm still in shock someone thought that was okay?? I agree with what you wrote - its okay as the parent/guardian to decide what is okay to share on a blog. It is not okay to randomly take photos of other people and share, particularly a minor child.

I do think kids vs. adults is a little different, but I also don't share photos of random adults... (or take them for that matter).

The question that this brings up in my head - is I do post pictures of my child when playing with other children (our friends) - maybe I should make sure their parents are okay with it. I think they are, I hope they would've said something - but at least I know these kids & these parents and it was because my kid was a part of it.... said...

Yeah, I would have given her what for. If only to say "ASK FIRST, BROAD."

Or maybe I would have taken out my phone and taken a photo of her, then mention my mad Photoshop skills. (Which I don't have...still.)

That said, yes, I too post pictures of my own kids, but never, ever other children unless I have permission.

Amo said...

I have the same background in communications, but I finished in Journalism with a minor in editing and marketing.

(Lookie where all that got me!)


I have to say it does seem odd, but not freaky. I'm not sure how I would have handled the situation, though.

Wow, such a profound comment. I give up...

Creative-Type Dad said...

That is weird. I think most younger people think that since you're out in public, that makes you public domain.

It's just plain inconsiderate.

And yes, I'm wondering about that pedicurist too.

Auds at Barking Mad said...

As a photographer, I can tell you that what she did wasn't illegal. Stupid? Oh definitely. You would have been within your rights to ask her not to take the picture but sadly she would have been within her rights to have taken it. This is an excerpt which explains it better than I can...

"Taking Photos in A Public Place

A public place is defined in laws as a place to which the general public has access. It does NOT mean public property. A shopping centre, library, museum, park, is still a public place although it may be private property.

You can take photos of almost anything in a public place. Buildings may be copyrighted but that applies to their design and photography does not violate the copyright of a building. It is not against copyright to take a photo of any architectural work or piece of art or sculpture in a permanent public place. Copyright by legal definition applies to a creation in a permanent and substantial form, so light displays would not meet that requirement and therefore not be copyrightable.

Street Photography of People

It is the right of a photographer to take photos of any person in a public place. If the photo is used for “commercial” purposes, then a release is needed. “Commercial purposes” is defined as advertising, NOT any purpose for money.

This means, for example, that a photo of a person taken in the street could be displayed in a gallery and sold as a piece of art without a release. Editorial use which is also allowed without a release is interpreted somewhat broadly. It is NOT for example limited to on the editorial page of a newspaper. An article on street photography in a photo magazine could be done without releases for the photos...." ographs

Excerpt taken from:

ewe are here said...

Have to agree with the photographer, I'm afraid. While upsetting, if you're in a public place, anyone can take your picture, or your child's, without your permission. There are no reasonable expectations of privacy in a public place.

I'm sure I would have reacted as you did ... and I would have questioned the person ... but legally, I know there's nothing I could have done about it.

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