Monday, November 26, 2012

More on photography of people in the Age of Facebook

I’ve already addressed (Aug. 8. 2012) the growing public discomfort and disconnect over photography of other individuals in public places, given the reality that the world has changed at it is possible or conceivable for others to track someone on the Internet based on photos taken without consent.

I thought I would introduce a couple more links on the topic.  One is in Lifehacker, here

Another is in Popular Mechanics, here.

I have to take this optimistic presentation (from the viewpoint of the blogger or citizen journalist)  with a grain of table salt. In practice, most retail businesses do not permit photography of employees or other customers on their premises (or of products) without permission. Airlines won’t let you photograph except views outside the windows.   Generally, major stage plays or larger music concerts don’t permit photography, at least during the performance (sometimes it’s OK during the applause), and movie theaters are very strict about prohibiting photography of films in progress, to prevent piracy. 

I discussed the issue with respect to the gay community, since in the past, a few decades ago, some people could not afford to be seen at “gay events”, and that could have been an issue for members of the military until the 2011 repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell”. 

It is common for people to take cell phone pictures in bars and discos.   It’s generally acceptable in these places to photograph drag queens or other performers  like karaoke singers (unlike the case with legitimate stage).  There has always been a certain amount of unwritten etiquette inherent in the way people gather for photos taken by people they know.  It’s always possible for bystanders to be included accidentally or more distantly.  Until the middle of 2011, moreover, it seemed that most patrons in establishments  large enough for dancing there was very little concern among customers about showing up in photographs made by strangers (which could wind up on websites, blogs, or Facebook).  That has changed a lot in the past 18 months, no doubt in large part due to media coverage of “online reputation” issues (some of it ironically on my own blogs).  This today are not “OK” the way they used to be. 

Most establishments have not yet, to my knowledge, announced any policy changes.  They might in the future.  In New York City in March 2012, the pricey Saint and Black Party in New York City required all customers to check in cell phones and cameras, whereas at a free party two blocks away in Hells Kitchen, everything was as usual.  More likely, establishments could come up with rules of etiquette and post them on websites. A few often fog their dancefloors, to make customers hard to see.  

My idea right now is this.  If a patron is  behaving in a public accommodation in a way as to intentionally attract attention from others in plain sight, photography should be OK.  If you’re an amateur performer , it should be OK.  (Some establishments and some cities or states don’t allow photography of nude dancers.)  If you’re “intimate” in a relatively secluded, hard-to-see or dark area – or just there and doing nothing, then it’s not all right.   It’s more likely to be OK on elevated stages in larger places, when people are in costumes (as for Halloween), are participating in contests, or otherwise make themselves conspicuous.  It is likely not to be all right to post significant videos including DJ music, because that’s normally copyright protected, and rather strictly.  By the way, I don’t think it’s normally OK to hunt for or photo people smoking, snorting, etc. or doing anything in an outdoor area. It certainly isn’t interesting or newsworthy.  

We still hear reports of people being “fired” for photos of them showing up on Facebook or other sites. 

 Recently, someone was fired for a tasteless photo taken of her at Arlington Cemetery, but she was apparently on work time when it happened (story).

There’s other news to report soon, including the shutdown of dozens of sites Nov. 26 for selling counterfeit goods.  I’ll check into this.  

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