The Canadian Press has a story on the ease of photographing or videotaping people in public and what it has meant for privacy. In response to criticism of always-on, non-targeted camera surveillance by law enforcement officials, there is often the refrain of, “You’re in public, so it doesn’t matter.” But it does matter, as this story shows, because there is a world of difference between walking down the street while being watched by a few people who likely don’t know and won’t likely remember you and walking down the street while being tracked by closed-circuit television (CCTV) systems, which can record and store your actions for infinite replay.
[I]n the age of ubiquitous camera phones and websites like YouTube, a momentary lapse can endure on the Internet, with millions of potential viewers.
And if you want to get your embarrassing moment pulled from public viewing, you may be in for an uphill battle, privacy experts warn.
“When you choose to engage in certain acts in the public sphere, they’re just that – they’re public,” said Brian Bowman, a Winnipeg lawyer who specializes in privacy laws.
“So there is a tremendous amount of latitude that people have to view what you are doing and also to do things like take pictures.”
This can lead to embarrassing situations not just for the individual photographed or videotaped, but for the person who chooses to record and publicize the incident.
One of the most recent high-profile examples is that of a woman who arrived at a Hong Kong airport in February only to learn she had missed her flight. As she became hysterical, an airline employee whipped out a camera phone.
The ensuing three minutes of screaming, sobbing and collapsing to the floor has been viewed millions of times on YouTube and picked up by television news programs around the world. The airline has apologized for the employee’s actions, but the video remains available for public viewing.
In that case, Cathay Pacific apologized and said “that the worker who filmed the video has been disciplined but that another person posted the footage on YouTube, a video-sharing website,” where it has been viewed almost 5 million times, reports the Associated Press. Clearly, the passenger’s actions were not appropriate, but we don’t know what else contributed to her actions. The situation could have — and should have — been resolved without the video being taken by an airline employee and posted online, without context, by someone else. Consider how some of your actions in high-stress situations would look when aired in a video clip available for constant replay and judgment, without the context of the entire situation being given.