By Joe Levi | November 8, 2012 2:17 PM
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.).
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!