There has been alot of discussion about the nature of the cyberspace. With it’s boundaries between public and private blurred, cyberspace – for some, is a city made of glass houses where curtains and blinds have yet to be invented. Indeed, some have locks on their doors, but more often than not, the peephole is still big enough to get the jist of what goes on.
With the popularity of visual social softwares such as Flickr, the question of public and private is kept alive. Back in the day, it was always my impression that one could not publish a photograph of someone without their permission. To be fair, I believe this was a relatively contrived law reserved for the rich and famous, since we have regularly been bombarded by dying children and injured people across the globe, and something tells me that their consent wasn’t quite obtained before becoming ‘national geographic’s’ most famous photograph. (And who has been caught in the flash in the background of a sports scene splashed across the front of the sports pages without their permission…) But I will continue nonetheless.
If I take photographs at a party, for my personal use, they often remain a private collection, shared only with my limited circle of friends. When these pictures are shared, they are usually contextualized for the viewer by my stories surrounding the event of the picture being taken. I have even been known to speed through or even hide a photograph once in a while due to its personal or simply embarrassing nature (come on – we have all had bad camera angles!!). I have even had friends ask me specifically not to share a particular photograph with others.
So – this brings me to my beef du jour. Why is it perfectly acceptable for people to post every single picture they have ever taken online in a very public, and poorly if at all, contextualized space? From both a personal and legal standpoint, why are the people in the pictures not asked their permission to be billboarded? What makes it ethical to blatantly splash photographs of people across the internet. What I find interesting is that more often than not, the person actually posting the photographs arent even in the picture – so in theory, their own identity is not compromised in any way (if only by association to the events depicted in the image). What makes it different in people’s mind to post these images online but not publish them in a magazine – or put the other way – why do people who post these (private) images in such a public space without conferring with those individuals in the picture? Has our perception of public and private become so entertwined that we no longer see an ethical issue here?