Thursday, February 13, 2014

My Photo, My Choice?

Image courtesy of Common Sense Media
This is a great photo of me! Yeah, Sarah looks weird, but I look awesome. I’ll go ahead and post it anyway.

Imagine if that wasn’t fictional Sarah who looked weird, but it was you. My guess is you would not be happy. Therefore, is it ethically or morally just to upload a photo of another person or a group photo without approval of everyone in the photo? From that perspective, you might think, “no, obviously it’s not okay to post pictures of others without their permission.” But, what if you were in the other position, would you still say the same thing? Things get tangled up because you might not think it’s a picture you need to ask about, but are you only seeing how great you look? Despite what some people might say, I believe that it is morally wrong to post pictures of others online without their permission. Even, if it is your child, as a minor, they are legally too young to give consent. Not only that but, because that picture, never really goes away and in doing so, you are essentially making their digital footprint for them.

Posting photos of others without permission will often embarrass them, or worse. If there is photo of them doing something inappropriate for their age, then years down the road when they are applying for a job, if a soon-to-be boss searches for them online and finds those things you posted, it could really hurt them. Luckily, according to Wassom.com, if a judge is officiating a court case with that friend they are not allowed to look at that person’s social media sites, but it is still around for employers. Even if the pictures got deleted off of their Facebook/ MySpace/ Twitter/ Instagram, etc it never really goes away. For all anyone knows, people halfway across the world could be viewing that photo and sharing it with their friends. Even if the photo gets “deleted” It will never ever go away. Many online sites save the photos and statuses you write and don’t get rid of them, so, they can use them as much as they want. That is often what people sign away when they agree to the “terms and conditions” without reading them. What happens to many people is that they click the box that says "agree" and soon they don't have any of their rights to what they say and/or post online. According to Electronic Frontier Foundation, many times, it's legal for the companies to do so. So, when you post that photo to the internet, you are giving away your friend’s picture. Is posting that photo of your awesome hair day be worth it?

As I mentioned before, at one time or another, you are likely going to be the friend who wants to post the photo.You might not be considering poor Sarah’s feelings with the same amount of sympathy before you post it. For example; you have an amazing (and I mean amazing) photo of yourself with your best friend. You want to post it on social media websites so all of your friends/ followers can see how great you look that day. Do you need your friends’ permission before hand? You don’t think she looks bad, but how would she see it? Could posting that photo upset your friend? If your friend says to you specifically, “please don’t post that” and you do anyway, you could be jeopardizing your friendship over one silly photo. Once again, is it worth it?

If one were to look at the photo from a legal standpoint, according to Ken Kaminesky Photography, technically whoever took the photo (for now I will assume that you took it) owns the photo and is free to do what he/ she chooses with it. So, if you wanted to post a photo of your friend, then legally, you can because you own the copyright to it. But on the matter of ethics and morals, posting without permission is different. It may be legal to post it without permission, but just because it's legal doesn't mean that it is necessarily the ethically right thing to do. 

However, if you are absolutely certain that you MUST post that photo, there are ways to post it without your friend in it so you don’t need to ask permission. There is a new application called “Obscurecam” that allows you to blur out or pixelate the faces in a photo that don’t want to be seen. Another option would be to crop the photo so that only you are in it. If possible, you could always share it exclusively with a few friends that the two of you agree upon. If all else fails, and neither of you can agree, keep the photo to yourself and enjoy how great your hair looked.

In conclusion, I believe that you should ask your friend for permission before posting that photo or using it anywhere else for three reasons: 1. It could negatively impact their future, 2. No picture is worth losing a friend, and 3. they are a part of the photo and should have a say in how it is used.




Conclusion, updated: March 6, 2014
In reading the comments left for me under this post, I have not been shown any major opposition, however I did learn something from my readers. I learned that almost everyone thinks about this topic (even a little) right before they post something. However, they may not think about it as much in depth. While writing this, I was almost constantly thinking, oh, they must think about this in depth all the time. But, people tend not to do so. I don't say that in a way meant to offend others, but in the simplest way possible. Another thing I learned to do while I was writing this, was to think about almost every photo I post before I decide to do so. I always make sure that I get consent form those in the picture, and I try to stop myself and ask, "Do I really want the whole world to see this?" if the answer is yes, I post, if not, I don't post. It has really opened my eyes to lots of the photos on the internet. During the process of researching my topic and finding new sources, I stumbled across a couple websites (while in the midst of writing my article itself) that proved to be very helpful. Some are linked in the above writing. I already knew that the pictures could be found on the internet in the future (by a possible employer...) but I never realized, up until I started researching, how true it was that the pictures never really go away. All in all, I have re-enforced my knowledge of the current accessibility of all of my past photos, and given myself (and hopefully others) a strong reminder of the thoughts one should think before they post a photo of others.

10 comments:

  1. I found your exploration of this important topic both well thought out and compelling. I love that you made some suggestions for ways to honor the ethically right thing to do with your photos. Great job!

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  2. this is a very good article with a lot of information it

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  3. This is a really interesting article as well as very relatable. I feel like a lot of students especially have been both the friend wanting to post the picture as well as the person in the picture who isn't a fan of posting the picture. This is a really good, well informed article that is also very relevant

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  4. Leta, this post has quickly become one of the most popular on the blog! You have touched on a topic that absolutely needs to be talked about among people who use social networks, young and old alike. "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should" is a great motto to live by when it comes to making good ethical choices. Stopping to consider the feelings of others is always a good idea! You mention services that actually keep your photos and "own" them after you've posted them to your account. Could you give a specific example of such a site? Where would we look in the Terms of Service or Privacy policies to find such information? If you knew a site did that before you signed up to use it, would you still want to use it? Well done here! I'm glad you've gotten a conversation started.

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  5. Hi Leta, I like the way that in this article you consider how other people would feel if their picture is the on being posted. How would they feel? It's very interesting that the law says that the picture is owned by you, so you can do anything you want with it. Although it sounds like an ethically wrong law, it seems like a law the government would put into place because it could turn into a copyright issue. Besides that point, I was wondering if there is a bill in the process becoming a law saying that a person's consent is essential to posting a picture because that seems like something reasonable that needs to happen before posting a picture. -Skatergirl.

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    1. Skatergirl, I don't know of any laws currently being passed, however, I do believe that many people are trying to get one passed. Even though I think that posting a photo without the consent of the person in the photo is wrong, I don't think that there should necessarily be a law for it. I don't think the government should get involved- with exception to child pornography, pictures of illegal events, etc.

      Leta

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  6. Very good writing Leta! I thought this article was very interesting and well explained. I liked how you included the copyright section and the scenario in the beginning was helpful. In my opinion if the photo you are about to post brings up any questioning thoughts about the photo, you shouldn't post it unless you follow the three steps posted at the end. Anyway my question for you is, have you seen this problem happen in your own life with friends? Or even seen it happen to others?
    Evan.

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    1. Yes, this has happened in my life. Both to myself and my friends on several occasions. I won't go into details for the sake of privacy, but it was never a pleasant experience. I have found photos with myself in them that I didn't want posted on numerous occasions. It's a hard end to be on, but it has happened several times.

      Leta

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  7. Hey Leta. Thanks for the post! I got a lot of good information about the laws and ethics regarding posting pictures of others with/without consent. I was just wondering, on the subject of parents posting pictures of their children, about how this should be approached in an increasingly digital and connected world? It seems that, for many, they would have no childhood pictures of themselves/their kids without having posted them on social media of some sort. What's you opinion on the matter?
    Thanks,
    Rumpusatthedisco

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    1. Rumpusatthedisco, because of the popularity of iPhones many parents are choosing to simply keep the photos on their phones, but there could be a problem if the phone gets lost, broke, etc. So, another possibility would be to keep the photos on your computer (iphoto if you have a Mac) or using a flash drive.

      Leta

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