Friday, January 22, 2010

Photos to the Web

I'm always amazed how many photos I find on the Web, of friends, family or myself, that none of us knew were there. Because things on the Web, in particular, photos, can last forever, forgetfulness is one of the big new themes in the privacy debate, particularly in Europe. There's lots of discussion about how to re-introduce a human concept of memory/forgetfulness/evanescence into a technical world of computers and websites and the Internet. I'll be joining a conference on this theme next week in Brussels.

I also joined a French government-sponsored conference on this theme recently in Paris. At the conference, much was said about the risks to people to having their photos posted online, without their knowledge or consent. With some sense of irony, I noticed a bunch of photos of me were published from that conference without my knowledge or consent, like the one here, in the online photo album of the Minister, no less,...I don't mind, and I would have happily consented, but it does make an interesting point, and I re-posted it to this blog, but that was my choice. If thoughtful people sitting in a conference about the problems of posting photos online are taking photos of people at the conference and posting them online, all without their knowledge or consent, well, maybe the sociology of online photo-sharing has developed beyond the state of the debate.

1 comment:

Tommy Vandepitte said...

Hi Peter,

I agree on the point you are trying to make.
The breach of "privacy" (or more precise personal data protection legislation) is a difficult issue. But in my opinion not mainly because your photograph is on the internet, but because it stays on the internet.
The mere fact that you are being photographed is an element of our time that Brandeis already brought up. It no longer takes hours to develop one picture taken with a large, stable instrument. Everybody can take your picture at any time since cameras are built in in most cell phones. However, when you are in a public place such as a seminar, it is likely if not customary that picture are taken by the organiser to enhance their website, ... So in my opinion, if you want to keep "control" over your "image" in such situation, you should take steps yourself. Go to the lady at the time she is taking the picture and ask her not to take picture or not to distribute them. Or, if you find out later on, ask her to remove them from the website. I think you actually have the right to ask (and even claim) that unless e.g. you are a celebrity who has to reset his standards a little, but not to the extent that he no longer has "a space of quiet and/or intimacy".

The issue in most cases will be the right to "oblivion". The www is loaded with bits and bites. In itself it does not remove things. With what should the www (or the service providers) begin? The criterion of selection is very delicate as there may be some type of censoring or discrimination. Oldest messages first (>< what about valuable old texts)? Messages that are least read (>< what about low volume languages)? Messages that have not been updated for a while (>< what if the text is copyrighted and therefore can not be altered)? etc. Though choices... I can have a favorite set of criteria, but you may prefer another.

Food for thought :-)