Public Privacy

I just finished saying that I wanted to focus on positive things here on my blog.

But… the exception proves the rule. This is something I wrote last year and never published, until now. It’s as much of a rant as you’ll ever get from me! (Except in the real world, where I’m much less zen.)

I take photos and publish them here for everyone to see. So I completely understand other people doing the same thing.

But sometimes I get the feeling that I should never again leave home without wearing a carefully put-together outfit and full make-up, just in case I happen to end up in the background of a photo or a video that has nothing to do with me and gets put on Youtube, going viral. With me clearly visible in the background. If that happens, I don’t want to be caught having a bad hair day or picking my nose, wearing a silly expression on my face, obliviously.

I actually read an article a while ago about an artist who made a photo exhibition of random people and sold some of the pictures for a lot of money. One of the people in the photos found out and contacted the artist, not being too happy about it, but there wasn’t much they could do.

I blame a lot of this on social media. Especially young kids today have all the equipment and technical skills, but they’re too young to really think about what they are actually publishing, to be public and available to anyone, forever.

A friend of mine was taking a shower at the gym when she noticed that some younger gym-goers were taking selfies – and the showers were directly in the background. Naked strangers showering in the background and who knows where those photos ended up.

The utter lack of privacy in public places in these days of internet and smartphone cameras makes me think of an absurd reality, like old movies depicting a dystopian society. Fahrenheit 451, for example. When I saw Fahrenheit 451 as a teenager the ’90’s (we used to watch classics at school sometimes), I never, ever thought that one day I’d live in a reality that even remotely reminded me of it! Now, I feel that though the plot is different, there’s a certain lack of control that’s similar.

I wonder what it would be like to be a teenager growing up in this day and age of no privacy. Maybe they are okay with it because they don’t know what it was like before. When you could actually be completely incognito if you wanted to.

Is it wrong to admit that I kind of miss my privacy? says the enthusiastic photo blogger, anonymously.

Maybe I’ll get over it.

53 responses to “Public Privacy

  1. I think it has gone a bit too far and I am very mindful of not featuring other people in my blog post photographs. Occasionally there are people in the background on some of the beach shots and I edit them out of the photograph in windows photo editor before posting on the blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I do agree that taking photos in a locker room type of setting is too much but I don’t think taking photos in cafés or other similar public places should be a problem. Nevertheless I know an American guy who works in a café in Helsinki and he doesn’t like bloggers taking his photo, as who knows where it ends up… in people’s blogs LOL!! 😛

    However, young girls publishing photos of THEMSELVES scantly dressed and posing in weird positions on the other hand is very sad. 😦 And that is something social media has brought into this world and these photos are accessible by millions.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m with you on the privacy issue but alas there are cameras everywhere these days. I try to minimize capturing unsuspecting folks in my photos. This week I spent time in Plaka, Greece and took photos of the busy streets lined with tourist shops. If I want to share the experience with others it means people from who knows where in the world may appear in my photos. I hope I didn’t catch any of them in a “pick” or “bad hair day” moment. If so, my apologies.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s had taking photos of places popular with tourists, or local people, without having at least a couple of them. I usually try to make sure they’re fairly distant, or have their backs to me, but it isn’t always possible. I take quite a lot of photos of historical sites, which are always crowded. Not being familiar with the editing techniques mentioned above, I have to use the photos as they are.
    Hope you feel better after your rant. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t like being photographed at all, but what I don’t see, isn’t going to hurt me, I suppose. The best way to take photos of famous places without the crowds is in the middle of winter – but I’m not too good at walking around castles etc when I’m freezing to death! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’d either do details/close-ups or photos from so far away that people are practically silhouettes. But that obviously won’t always get you the photos you need. Like in your posts, where you might need descriptive photos. And I admit my logic isn’t flawless: I do love silhouettes of strangers in my photos… (unrecognizable so they could be anyone)

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Great thoughts on privacy! I generally ask if I can take someone’s picture. If they say yes, but don’t “put it on the Internet”, I always respect that! Most people though seem flattered if I ask their permission to put the photo on my blog.
    As for myself appearing in the background of someone’s photo, I am old enough to not worry about my hair anymore! 😉
    But I do miss the days when not everything was captured and published for all the world to see! 😢

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think you can often tell when permission has been asked, the person smiles and poses for the camera, and that’s ok. That approach suits travel photography well. But street photography and just general selfies to go on Snapchat etc. are where I think the problem lies – selfie-takers aren’t usually “photographers” and they don’t necessarily tend to think of what’s ok and what isn’t. (Ok, this is a huge generalization, I know!!) It’s a tricky subject! And you can go either way with your opinion.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post, couldn’t agree more! But there is a difference between documenting “everyday life” and publishing pictures with people in uncomfortable situations. As a Street Photographer I sure take and post pictures with persons in it. But I would never post an image where I would not be comfortable seeing myself in. I would also nötig take photographs of persons who indicate they don’t want to have their picture tanken. But other than that I see myself as a documenter of everyday life as it is today. Capturing todays life for future generations to see. And who doesn’t like to look at old photographs today to see how life looked like when our grandpatents were young…..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Street photography is a tough subject. I admit, it’s very interesting looking at candid photos of people on the streets, and like you said, in the future it’ll be even more fun to look back at them. But I can’t say I completely agree with it. That’s why I’ll never become a street photographer, I’ll focus more on nature, macros and travel. Do I remember correctly, that you wrote in a post of yours that in Germany, it’s forbidden to take recognizable photos of people in public places? If so, I like that idea.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I feel the same – for a long time I thought I was alone in my “rants” 🙂 My country (Japan) has strict privacy laws, but even so it is completely different from when I was growing up. I can’t imagine what it’s like to grow up in today’s “open” world…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, an open world… where you must share your entire life on Facebook if you want to be included in events, your work history on Linked-In if you want to get a job, and be okay with always being in the background of photos, like a celebrity without the fame.


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  9. That was a pretty polite rant! In the case of the locker room – yikes! Totally not OK. On the street or in tourist crowds – I’m OK with it. (Close-ups or very specific photos need permission, I think.) In Mongolia recently, I took a photo of two young boys (whose mother approved it) and after snapping I saw that there was a woman breastfeeding a child right behind them. She jumped up, and I felt so bad, but I showed her that I was deleting the picture. Totally accidental and of course I never would have published it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like where you draw the line. I think that unfortunately, lots of people don’t draw the line anywhere, especially younger kids today. The line has become blurred. The more time goes by, I’m afraid it will fade away altogether. (And yes, a polite rant! Hahah I know this is a sensitive subject since a lot of bloggers are photographers)

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I’ve always worked in Manhattan where there are multitudes of tourists and their cameras. I usually turn my head in time to avoid being in their vacation pictures but not always. I do avoid having random people in my blog pics because I’m so sensitive about it myself. Thanks for the locker room story; I see that as a cautionary tale!

    Liked by 1 person

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  12. I detest having my photo taken without permission, it’s a total and utter disregard of privacy, I’ve only felt this way snce the Internet, before that, I never thought about it very much because the photos were not going to end up on the World Wide Web — possibly.
    When I go out, I wear sunglasses and a baseball cap, that’s how much I value my privacy (facial recognition software can’t read data with those two worn).
    I’ve got nothing to hide, however, it doesn’t mean that I want to end up with my photo on the net without my consent.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly!!! I’m so happy I’m not the only one who feels like this. It’s like I’ve lost some of my liberty. The freedom to go outside my flat looking tired or to walk home red-faced an sweaty after a workout. Now I feel the pressure to always look Instagram-ready, whether I want to or not. And if I go to the doctor’s for example, does the whole world really need to know? Everyone has become a paparazzi and everyone a target.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I totally agree with you about this! Lately I’ve been struggling with my feelings about drone photography in particular….I LOVE the amazing aerial shots it produces, but it makes me very uncomfortable privacy-wise. While swimming at Grand Anse beach a few months ago a drone was swooping over us, and I definitely did not like that feeling!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve seen a drone fly just outside my window and we live on the 5th floor. Not a nice surprise. What a great gadget for weirdos and criminals… Though I too, like aerial photos. On the other hand, when aerials become too common, they’ll loose their glamour and become mundane. Do we always need to have everything right now, so easily, in huge portions?


  14. I totally hear you! And I am “feeling old” agreeing with you… I love my privacy and luckily, there are still ways (like travel to remote places) to escape the madness of the modern age! When we were young… (fill in the blank) 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Hi! I just saw this post now, I was surprised to read the part where you tell the story of the artist who made portraits of random people and when one of them wasn’t OK with it nothing happened. Here if you find a portrait of you published somewhere you have the right to ask for it to be removed, if necessary by taking civil action.

    The way it works here is:
    – If a photo is taken in a public place where several people are in frame and none is the main subject of the image, then the photographer is not obliged to ask for their permission or even inform them. But if the photo gets published and someone in it asks for the picture to be removed, then the photographer has to do it.
    – If it’s a specific portrait, the photographer needs prior consent not only before publishing but even before taking the photo.

    It’s a tricky subject! Now that we live in an online world I think there are many things that don’t feel they’re really clear…
    The other day I was saying to my boyfriend that we are the last generation that grew up without Internet… how crazy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • How crazy, yes! The internet makes country borders and laws so vague that it’s probably a nightmare trying to enforce them. And travelers won’t be aware of these laws anyway. That article was from the US, if I remember correctly. It must’ve been a shock for that person to see her own face in a picture of an art exhibition by a stranger! Someone making money with your face, without paying you, makes you basically an unpaid model!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I am grateful to read this comment today because I ponder this issue a lot lately – because you see I started taking some random street shots of different people this last year – and well, for two years before that I always asked and took formal shots, but then I was inspired by some street photographers I follow and somehow found myself capturing some fun moments that i call social shots – you know, people doing what they do.
    however, my oldest son was questioning the ethics – and even tho it is legal to photograph people – I have really been pondering some of it – and as you noted so well here – I have been thinking about how I would feel to be in certain shots – especially if it was a bad day – or well, there is so much to think about.

    I know on one hand, folks do not really care – or at least i don’t really care too much about photos – I am not a celeb and at the end of the day I feel like my vapor of a life is such a small speck – and I guess I actually feel grateful that I am not a celeb and I don’t have to worry about paparazzi and all that – and so the photo would be ok with me….

    but this topic is true worth thinking about…. thanks for the discussion with it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m happy if you’re thinking about this. I don’t like being chased by paparazzi especially since I’m not famous! If I had the bank account of a celebrity, it might console me enough to tolerate a few photos every now and then… I do admit though that I follow a few street photography blogs, which is I guess is a silent way of accepting the practise…

      Liked by 1 person

  17. A very relevant topic of course 🙂 Travelers always end up clicking away and sometimes forget the rule “your freedom ends where my nose begins” 😀 It is true that with advancing technology, there is no need to even ask permission! I mean those cameras with “nx” zooms, they can capture anything right? You are so on point in this discussion 🙂 And yes, we could be the change we want to see and ask for permission if we feel a few people are dominant in our photos and who knows that might inspire the next “traveler” standing next to us 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love that saying about freedom and your nose, hahah! I’d never heard it before but it captures it perfectly! I know it’s sometimes just really hard to avoid taking photos of random people… But it’s at least easier to avoid posting them! But like I said, I’m not perfect, either… We all have our moments!☺️

      Liked by 1 person

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