Public Photography and Facebook

Focus: Is putting photos of other people on the internet without their permission acceptable or is it a violation of the right to privacy? This assignment is neither for nor against, but relatively neutral showing both sides of the argument. When I say “internet” I am referring only to the social media site of Facebook.

Are people aware of certain legal restrictions? à Although most forms of unauthorised photography is legal in Australia, there are certain limitations placed on photo rights.

Anti-voyeurism laws: “peeping tom” photography in NSW is addressed by division 15B of the NSW Crimes Act 1900.

In most Australian states you can only take photos at railway stations with permission in advance

If you’re a grown man hanging around schoolyards photographing small children expect a tap on the shoulder from local police

Do people care about these restrictions? à Other than not wanting to seem creepy or weird, the common perception of photographing strangers in public is OK as long as they don’t get caught in the act. However, I will create a survey that will hopefully obtain more details facts about public photography and subsequently uploading these photos to Facebook, and bring into account the moral issues behind it such as a right to privacy.

In a separate little social experiment for this assignment, I managed to slip into conversation with several people about the issue of taking photos of taking photos of people without their permission and putting it on the internet for the whole world to see. I purposefully did not mention the fact this was for academic reasons as I wanted to make sure they did not jeopardise their truthful answers. What every single person mentioned (around 5-6 people) was the statement “but everybody does it”. This led me to reflect on this statement quite a lot. I brought many factors into this answer, and what was most dominant was the government. The law has failed to keep up with all the vast technological improvements involved with mass media/usage. In saying this, it does not mean that using the phrase “everybody does it” as a legitimate defence for illegal and immoral behaviour. It basically only means that you have a higher chance of getting away with it.

Case Study: YouTube video- Taking pictures of strangers prank

This YouTube video is of a male walking around what seems to be a convenience store and pretending to take photos of strangers, when actually he has the camera turned on himself and is taking “selfies”. Although this somewhat fails to tie in with my original focus of this project, it does hold some important themes that do correlate with it.

  1. Although I am not sure the video was uploaded to Facebook, it was uploaded to another very popular site- YouTube.
  2. It exposed several strangers and there was one man who was clearly not happy with the whole scenario, but that did not stop the YouTube artist uploading the video.
  3. I guarantee that he did not ask these strangers for their permission either, as nothing is mentioned in the description of the video and the person who uploaded it clearly did not care about anything but obtaining popularity through this video and upon further investigation, many other careless and silly pranks.



  • This survey involved 15 people
  • Each person answered the exact same two questions which were as follows
  1. Have you ever taken a photo of other people and put it on the internet (Facebook) without their permission?
  2. Do you believe this is a violation of their right to privacy?



  1. no- in a public domain it is an invasion of privacy only if it is published
  2. no- depends on the situation
  3. yes- if its only your friends seeing it, it doesn’t matter
  4. yes- how is it different to CCTV in populated areas
  5. yes- no as there are no repercussions and there would be if it were a violation
  6. yes- do it for the likes
  7. yes- do it for the likes
  8. yes- do it for the likes
  9. yes-do it for the likes
  10. yes- do it for the likes

(Keep in mind 6-10 were a group of males and it may or may not have been “peer pressure” or an attempt to look “cool” that made them all answer this way)

  1. yes- you don’t tend to think about the science behind it
  2. yes- no because it was funny
  3. no- I believe it’s wrong so yes it is a severe violation
  4. No- it is a violation but I don’t associate with that side of Facebook or any social media for that matter.
  5. No- depends on the context. If there is no identifying features on them it is not a violation- with regards to strangers

Note: when asking these questions- I made them more focus on taking photos of strangers- not so much of their friends/family/people they associate with.

Analysing the results

These results were not exactly what I was expecting. In trying to not make such harsh generalisations- I did try and break the 15 people I interviewed into separate “social” groups that I found around my university campus. Every person that answered “no” when I had asked if they had taken a photo of a stranger and put it on Facebook without their permission were quite introverted individuals. They were all heavily academic, generally weren’t into the “party” scene and also had a lot to say about this particular topic. To everyone that answered “yes”, I later stalked their own personal Facebook page. They literally could not have gone 12 hours without some sort of update onto their page. They tended to be loud, overly joyful and had the “don’t care” attitude. I may need to repeat myself in saying that in no way am I overgeneralising or discriminating against certain types of people, I am merely making connections between my results and the personal demeanours of the people that I interviewed, which I believe to my quite a significant part to this study. I also found it quite interesting that there were not really any neutral answers, which I thought would have made up the majority of the 15 responses to the second question. Only 1/3 of the answers stated that taking photos of strangers and putting it on Facebook without their permission is in fact a violation of their right to privacy- and I must give credit to all of the reasons why as they were very sincere and accurate answers in my opinion.

Stakeholders that could be involved

Facebook- In looking into Facebook’s terms and conditions- believe section 5: Protecting Other People’s Rights to be of the correct association with this study. It reads as follows:

We respect other people’s rights, and expect you to do the same.

  1. You will not post content or take any action on Facebook that infringes or violates someone else’s rights or otherwise violates the law.
  2. We can remove any content or information you post on Facebook if we believe that it violates this Statement or our policies.
  3. We provide you with tools to help you protect your intellectual property rights. To learn more, visit our How to Report Claims of Intellectual Property Infringement
  4. If we remove your content for infringing someone else’s copyright, and you believe we removed it by mistake, we will provide you with an opportunity to appeal.
  5. If you repeatedly infringe other people’s intellectual property rights, we will disable your account when appropriate.
  6. You will not use our copyrights or trademarks (including Facebook, the Facebook and F Logos, FB, Face, Poke, Book and Wall), or any confusingly similar marks, except as expressly permitted by our Brand Usage Guidelines or with our prior written permission.
  7. If you collect information from users, you will: obtain their consent, make it clear you (and not Facebook) are the one collecting their information, and post a privacy policy explaining what information you collect and how you will use it.
  8. You will not post anyone’s identification documents or sensitive financial information on Facebook.
  9. You will not tag users or send email invitations to non-users without their consent. Facebook offers social reporting tools to enable users to provide feedback about tagging.

Everyone knows that in accepting the “terms and conditions” which any website or platform whatsoever is absolutely useless. 99% of people would click “I have read and accepted the terms and conditions” button without in fact doing so. To have such a detailed terms and conditions, Facebook has done an immaculate job with purely including everything appropriate, however, its message and content is not getting across to the general Facebook population. Facebook, as a stakeholder, may be interested in this research as they are always updating and improving their privacy settings, which proves they take other people’s rights quite seriously.