Wherefore art thou, Privacy?

Private sign

Many of us go about our days assuming that no one is really paying attention to us and for better or for worse, that leads to an assumption of privacy. However, in an age of smartphones and social media, it may be dangerous to make that assumption.

Consider this story – a couple “meet cute” on an airplane, have a generally pleasant conversation and then go about their merry way. What neither of them realized was that someone seated behind them was live-tweeting their entire story and it fascinated the nation – capturing more than 800,000 users who followed the account. The story was widely covered in the media, with the man in the story showing up on the Today Show, but the woman in the “romance” didn’t find the attention welcome and subsequently deleted her online presence. For a deeper take on this, click here for an article posted on The Business Insider.

Should these individuals have had an expectation of privacy, or, as they are in a public place, should it be assumed that there is always the risk of being filmed?

And what about this widely shared YouTube clip that showed up in my social media feeds numerous times last week:

Sure, it’s funny to watch this man look silly in front of the entire plane but does he deserve to have thousands of people make fun of him for doing something many of us might have done once or twice? Should the person filming the video have asked for his permission to share his image across the Internet?

While there are regulations in place for a business to require permissions to use photos and videos online, there are no such regulations currently that dictate how or where someone can use photos or videos on personal sites. Here are a few articles I found on the subject:

Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the Centre for Law, Technology and Society, University of Ottawa: https://cippic.ca/en/FAQ/Photography_Law#permission

Global News (April 5, 2015):  https://globalnews.ca/news/1927766/exploring-your-rights-when-strangers-take-your-picture-in-public/

Toronto Star (June 18, 2016): https://www.thestar.com/life/2016/06/18/consent-is-needed-before-taking-anyones-picture-in-public-ethically-speaking.html – june 18

As more and more content is shared online and people are looking for that viral post that brings them a measure of Internet “fame,” we can clearly see that it still remains up to each individual person to guard their privacy when out in the public world, as much as they can anyway.

What do you think? Is whatever happens in public up for posting? Is legislation required to regulate personal content use?

Wherefore art thou, Privacy? Is everything that happens in public fair game for posting on social media? https://wp.me/p3QRy0-jET

Wherefore art thou, Privacy? To post, or not to post, that is the question. #publicvsprivate https://wp.me/p3QRy0-jET

8 thoughts on “Wherefore art thou, Privacy?

  1. HI Kelly: I really liked your post. The topic was interesting and timely. And you made good use of graphics, references, URL, etc. Well written and you pose some excellent questions. I don’t have anything to suggest! Paul

  2. The common shame factor is huge with social media. Think about all the kids staring in embarrassing videos posted by their parents. So many questions of ethics and consent involved in these cases. It is just another example of how we are still at the very beginning of our lives being lived on social media. The rules are still being written. Great post!

    • Thanks! I try not to share too many embarrassing photos of my kids online, but I know when they are older they will find even the most innocent ones to be horrifying! But I also make sure that the privacy settings on Facebook are set strongly, and I don’t share anything about my kids on Twitter. Even then, once anything is on the Internet, it’s out there!

  3. Your blog brings up a really good point Kelly. I struggle with this because on one hand the fact that anyone can record evidence of anyone’s wrongdoing and submit its findings to “social justice” may be an incentive for people to respect their surroundings, social media facilitates public shaming, in a lot of cases unwarranted. The more I think about this the more I come to the conclusion that what causes this is social media, its channels (those are just the tools) but rather that “gotcha!” attitude from the person that captures it and the mob effect that happens afterwards when people start sharing it without thinking about the effects that this will have on those who are being judged – We are talking about simple civic rules of consideration but as wellpacked mentioned above, these are also very early stages and the social media rules are still being written, so hopefully we will learn from our mistakes along the way. Thank you for your post!

    • You bring up a great point about the social justice aspect of public video. I can name at least 2 media articles from this past weekend driven by that: an Ottawa driver deliberately splashing people has been fired because of the video; and a man in Stoney Creek who was filmed speaking horribly racist things is now being looked at as a hate crime). I guess, as usual, it comes down to whether the pros outweigh the cons. Thanks for the comment!

  4. Hi Kelly. What a great topic and good blog!

    Something happened to me the other day that got me thinking on this topic. I was biking home from work along the canal in Ottawa. A man was sitting on a bench beside the canal with a large professional looking camera. As I biked by he held the camera up and clearly took my photo and then yelled “thank you” as I biked past. I was a bit weirded out and wondered, could he use that photo for anything? I knew companies needed my permission to use the photo and that reassured me a bit, but you make a good point, there are no restrictions on personal social media accounts. I could currently be posted on a social media and tagged as an “animal hater” or anything that person wants to associate me with, which would clearly affect my peronsal brand.

    However, in this situation I was out in public space. I didn’t have an expectation of privacy. I knew I was out in public. If that man later testified that he saw me at that date and time I wouldn’t be surprised or shocked by this. However it is just a bit different when things go online and you don’t know when or where.

    • Wow, that’s actually kinda freaky! I would totally be weirded out too, but as you said, what could you do. Maybe we’ll be using your stock photo soon, and hopefully it’s not used anywhere that would damage you or your brand!

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