It's fair to say the selfie and candid snaps have become staples of social media photography, and in a time where over 75% of Australians have a smartphone, everyone is their own photographer and publisher. So what’s the harm in taking a picture, or sharing it on the internet?
Before you reach for your phone or camera (normally one in the same), you need to be aware of your surroundings. Whilst generally in public places you can snap away, being on private property while taking a picture without the permission of the landowner may result in charges of trespass.
It also bears remembering most modern phones and cameras are also GPS enabled and “geotag” pictures taken with them. This means the picture file has GPS coordinates of where it was taken imprinted into it and can be accessed by anyone with a computer and an original digital copy of the image or recording.
So you know where you are taking that picture from (and it isn’t going to get you in trouble), what’s the subject of the picture? Taking a picture of a particularly beautiful sunrise or a nice family portrait is harmless, taking pictures of anyone without their knowledge or permission is fraught with issues.
Taking a picture or a recording of someone in a private conversation or during a private activity when they don’t consent to it is protected by law, unless they can’t reasonably expect to maintain their privacy. What’s more, taking pictures or videos of someone without their permission, be it in public or in private, can lead to stalking related charges or even orders such as AVO’s or VRO’s.
So what does that mean? It means you should always be aware of the context you are in. People in their own home expect a degree of privacy, so taking a picture through their bedroom window, or recording that person having a quiet conversation could land you in hot water. As for maintaining privacy outside of the home, pay attention to the circumstances. People having a conversation in a busy coffee shop can’t reasonably expect that conversation to remain private, but people who have sought a secluded place to speak may be able to receive protection from the law.
This rise of being able to publish a picture or video to an audience of millions has seen the rise of tech industry giants and is the sole premise of entire platforms like Instagram and Vine. Despite privacy settings, it is important to remember once an image or video is uploaded you are no longer in control of who sees that image or recording or how it’s used. Any recording which contains indecent content or shows the commission of criminal conduct puts the publisher and the subjects in a high-risk situation.
It’s easy to forget that what we post can be tracked back to us; law enforcement agencies are increasingly looking to social media for easy to find evidence. Even if you aren’t the original photographer mere possession of offensive images or recordings, or forwarding or uploading the content may leave you liable to criminal charges.
As our possibilities expand with the growth of the internet and its many platforms, so does our responsibility to think about how we interact and affect those around us. Almost all charges surrounding pictures and recording can open you up to criminal charges and the prospect of fines or imprisonment.
Whether the recordings are taken from where you shouldn’t be, of what or who you shouldn’t be recording, or are taken in a way you shouldn’t, a careless snap can do irreparable damage to someone’s life, perhaps even your own.
While everything above can seem a bit daunting just remember whenever you go to capture the moment, take a moment. In a time where privacy is becoming increasingly scarce we should do our best to respect each other’s.