Creepy Cameras Everywhere!

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We’ve all got cameras on our phones, phablets, and tablets. Where can we use them? Where should we use them? Where does your privacy start? Where should you have no expectation of privacy?

At Pocketnow, when we shoot videos for reviews or to demonstrate the latest and greatest gadget we often catch people, buildings, cars, bikes, and other “personal stuff” in our shots. When you take pictures you undoubtedly have “collateral personnel” in your shots, too. It happens.

Generally speaking, if you’re in a publically accessible place, you can take a picture or video of anything that you can see. That means if you can see inside a building through a window or door, you can take a picture of whatever you can see. If you have a humongous telephoto lense, you can see even further into “private” property, but as long as you’re taking the picture from someplace that’s reasonably open to the public, you’re probably not breaking any laws. This is how papparazzi make a living.

All of this varies by locale, of course, so don’t take any of it as legal advice.

Where people cross the legal line (again, speaking in generalities) is when they move from a public space onto a private one, or when the subject of the photograph or video is particularly sensitive (a person in a state of undress, a secure area, etc.).

So far we’ve only talked about cameras that you or I could carry with us. There’s another type of camera out there, one that’s not directly controlled by a person, but we have all around us. This type includes surveillance cameras, security cameras, the dash cameras in police cars, cameras on drones flying over our heads, traffic cameras, cameras on planes and satellites getting “birds eye” views, and even cameras driving our roads to get “street view” imagery. This type of camera is everywhere — and none of us seem to care.

That’s where one guy got his inspiration. He decided to go around filming people, in public, just doing everyday ordinary things. People were obviously upset. How dare some complete stranger photograph them, let alone video them? Without their permission! BIn most of these cases, the cameraman didn’t need permission, nor was he required to even disclose that he would be filming.

If you’re carrying a smartphone or a tablet around with you, you can be a “creepy cameraman” too! You’ve got the power and technology to do it. You can also be an on-the-ground reporter catching breaking news as it happens. What’s the difference between the two? I have to conclude is that it’s all about the context.

If you video some random person on the street you’re a creep. If you video a newsworthy event you’re a reporter. If you video someone playing music you’re a pirate. If you video a law enforcement officer or security guard you’re a terrorist. Even if you were just some person sitting on a park bench while all these scenarios played out in front of you, the context of what you film may label your activity.

Sure, that’s probably oversimplifying things, but I keep going back to the other kinds of cameras, the ones that we have around us all the time. Are they  “reporters”, “creeps”, or “terrorists”? Why not? they’re out there filming the same things in the same places. Why then are we outraged by people who video us, but are complacent when the camera is in plain sight but the person behind it is not?

Do you have any stories about shooting video in public, or being the unwitting subject of a video shot in public? I’m interested to know your take! Let us know in the comments!

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About The Author
Joe Levi
Joe graduated from Weber State University with two degrees in Information Systems and Technologies. He has carried mobile devices with him for more than a decade, including Apple's Newton, Microsoft's Handheld and Palm Sized PCs, and is Pocketnow's "Android Guy".By day you'll find Joe coding web pages, tweaking for SEO, and leveraging social media to spread the word. By night you'll probably find him writing technology and "prepping" articles, as well as shooting video.Read more about Joe Levi here.