Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Excuse Me, But That's my Privacy You're Stepping On.

UPDATE: In just a few hours after I posted this, I found the photographer on Twitter and asked him to remove the photo. He did and apologized and promised never to take a photo of me again. My faith in people has resumed. Thank you all for your support - even you "Anonymous" commenter.

Dear Readers,

One of the things I do in order to let Savvy Aunties know about all the coolest new toys they can consider giving their nieces and nephews is attend various toy showcase events. This morning I attended the Time to Play event in New York City. It was a fantastic event and I will be spending a good part of the week sharing my favorite toys from the show with Savvy Aunties on SavvyAuntie.com/Gifts.

The only disturbing part of the event was the gentleman who took a photo of me while I was looking at some toys. I told him that I didn't want to be in his photo. He shrugged me off. I said: "Excuse me, but you don't have my permission to use my image in your print publication or post it on your site." He shrugged me off again as if to say "Oh well, tough luck" and continued to walk away.

I pressed on.

"Excuse me sir, but you do not have my permission to use my image." He told me it was for internal purposes and I left it at that. I shouldn't have. I should have gotten his credentials and notified his company. But he was walking away and I didn't want to create a scene. I think I made a mistake.

I was steaming mad.

I am fresh off of being notified by a friend late last night that there is a photo of me on Flickr that I had never seen before. It was taken last summer while I sat at an outdoor cafe working on my laptop and on my cell. I remember what I was working on that day and how happy I was to be getting so much work done at my neighborhood cafe on a lovely summer day.

The photographer boasted on Flickr that the photo has been used in numerous blogs and poked fun at me stating how he had taken a number of photos of me from just a few feet away but I was too busy on my phone to notice him (like I'm in the wrong for not being aware some creepy guy is taking pictures of me while I worked.)

Here's what he wrote on Flickr:

"I took several pictures of her, from different angles, and from only a few feet away. Amazingly, she never seemed to notice me at all; I guess she was concentrating too hard on her cellphone conversation and whatever was on her laptop (which, I'm guessing from its physical appearance, was probably an IBM Thinkpad, running Windows - so she was probably forced to pay close attention to it). "

I wont tell you his name or post the photo page link because he doesn't know who I am and I'd like to keep it that way.

But I'm creeped out.

Just like I was when I noticed that the Huffington Post shared what articles I was reading "with my friends."

Just like I was when I found out that anyone can see what I "liked" on Facebook.

And don't get my started on FourSquare, Gowalla and other "Here I am! Come take photos of me without my persmission" geolocation technologies.

By the way, this Flickr guy didn't need to use geolocation technology to tell everyone where I was. He just posted the address of a cafe I frequent often to the world. Oh well, looks like I won't be going there anymore.

Here's the thing. I'm a public person. I am on TV and have photos of me all over the Web.

But these appearances are my choice. They are me in my professional status as Savvy Auntie. And it's not like this guy took photos of my because I'm Savvy Auntie. He took them because I was a vulnerable to his camera, sitting minding my own business. It was a violation of my privacy.

Do we really have to shrug it off like the photographer at Time to Play and say: "But this is the world now, get used to it?" Was George Orwell just 26 years too early?

Privacy should not be owned by those who violate it.

Is becoming free subjects of stock photography just the coolest new toy of the season? Because man, I feel played.

Auntie Melanie


  1. "Privacy should not be owned by those who violate it." Truer words were never spoken.

  2. This is so apropo to what I'm working on right now. I am a private person, but I love blogging and am putting myself out there, which technically makes me a public person. Again, like you said, my choice. I am a college professor and my students are writing now about how social networking is making everyone a public person. Makes us have to be wary about what we do to be socially responsible. Again, you're right; it's only when YOU want to be.

    Your privacy has been stepped on indeed. I'll be watching my back in cafes now. Thanks for posting!

  3. When in a public space (outside cafe) according to US law, you lose the reasonable expectation of privacy. I suggest if you want privacy you eat and work inside the cafe.

  4. Mel,
    I hear you and agree, but we live in a land where entitlements and the attitudes of others seem to overpower the "golden rule". Thanks for sharing, but I think it only ads heat to fire by getting upset. Yes, I would and am upset too, but the web and its' intricate strings make many things public that really shouldn't.

    Clearly this guy is a freak and was more enthralled in his creepy photo shoot rather than saying hello. My evolved view on the meaningless aggravations of life is to let it go and smile into the next project.

    Wishing you health, happiness, success and a moderate level of privacy.



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