Private public spaces

Had an interesting discussion with a mate on Facebook last week around the ethics of taking photos of people in public places and putting ’em on a blog. She said that she wouldn’t like it if a photo of her was posted online and discussed without her knowing.

What is ‘public’ and what is ‘private’ is a chewy philosophical area. And I’m always struck by the ‘private’ activities people do in ‘public’ spaces (see below). To be honest, I was surprised and pleased to find out there are no rules about permission/consent (unless you want to use the photos for commercial purposes – slight qualifications¬†outlined here). ¬† Basically you can crack on happily.

This is so unlike academic research which is subjected to such scrutiny by ethics committees that it can be unproductively constraining, frustrating and time consuming. But going back to the Facebook discussion, just because there are no rules about this, should I photograph and post images of people without consent?

Well I’ve decided to set my own ethical standards in addition to those outlined in the above link;

  1. If someone wants their photo removed from this blog, I’ll remove it straightaway.
  2. If I’ve photographed someone and they would like a copy, I’ll email a high res version or send a print.

Job done. (As long as a train is considered a public space…)

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