Taking Pictures Without Permission

I was at a rest stop with my wife on a 7-hour road trip. We were having a meal. Soon after that, I received a message online from a person who knew who I was and he/she saw us at the rest stop. The person was a fan, but he/she was shy to approach and greet me.

That’s okay, I understand that. But what I don’t understand is that this person secretly took a picture of my wife and I, having our meal, and posted it online. I felt violated and a bit scared, because a stranger had just taken a picture of my family, without me knowing it.

From time to time, I like to bring my family to gatherings of knowledge so that they can benefit from the gathering. It is an educational experience that I want my family to be a part of, and I want them to feel accustomed to going to beneficial events.

In one such occasion, I was the invited speaker. I brought my family along with me. My wife and my son sat at the back. Partly because my wife is shy and she doesn’t like the attention, and partly because if my baby son cries, she can easily exit from the back without disturbing the other audience members.

After the event, my wife told me that some of the girls in the audience were playing with my son and they wanted to hold him. I understand that. Babies are cute. But what surprised me a bit was that they took pictures and selfies with my son without our permission. What is more surprising (and a bit scary) is that I found one of those pictures online.

To be fair, the content of the picture was not inappropriate, but the act of taking the picture without our permission was indeed inappropriate. I understand that they have no ill intentions, and I am not accusing them of anything. I am simply trying to convey a simple message: please ask permission before you take pictures of other people.

This has been a common sense thing for me ever since I can remember, so I didn’t think that I have to mention it. But seeing that the common sense may not be that common anymore, I have to speak up. I understand why people do it, considering that cameras are everywhere these days and we publicly share our lives more today than ever before.

I try my best not to see previous generations as necessarily better at everything compared to the current generation because both grew up in different circumstances. Each generation has their own unique challenges to deal with. With the current generation, I think gadgets is a huge challenge.

In the book “Focus” by Daniel Goleman, the author mentioned in the first few pages of the book how gadgets are negatively affecting our social skills, particularly since we are spending more screentime (looking at screens) than facetime (interacting face-to-face with people).

To extrapolate on what Goleman mentioned in his book, it is possible that some common sense things that we naturally pick up from social interactions are becoming less and less common, because people aren’t having meaningful social interactions like they did before the advent of gadgets and social media (how ironic is the name).

One teacher I know complained about how her students aren’t understanding some basic mannerisms. For example, some of her students take selfies in the class…while she’s teaching. I understand that selfies is a normal thing now and I do myself in my personal life, but rudeness should never be normalized.

With pictures, there are some basic mannerisms as well. One of which is to ask permission before taking someone else’s picture. Why? Because you are “taking” his/her picture. Meaning, you are taking something from the person. If you don’t ask permission, then it can be considered as a form of stealing.

What are you stealing? You are stealing the person’s privacy. Privacy is an individual right, and it should be respected regardless of who the person is. It is only in few specific circumstances where you can take a person’s picture without asking for permission. But generally speaking, the default should always be to ask first.

I understand that there are people who are okay with their pictures being taken, with or without permission. But just because some people are okay with it doesn’t mean that everyone is okay with it. Whether the person thinks it’s a big deal or not, it is safer to ask permission first. I mean, it is a polite social gesture and you really have nothing to lose by asking.

So if you want to take a picture of the person, please ask for his/her permission first. If you want to take a picture of someone’s child, please ask permission from the parents first. Don’t ever assume that the person is simply okay with it just because taking pictures and sharing everything is a trend. Not everybody is a trend follower.

But what if the person says “No”?

Well, that is his/her right and you don’t really have a say in the matter. It is not considered rude if a person refuses to take a picture with you or refuses to allow you to take a picture of their child (provided that the person refuses politely), so there really is no strong reason for you to feel offended.

What is considered rude, intentionally or not, is that you secretly take people’s pictures or pictures of their children without their permission. Furthermore, it is even more rude when you post the pictures online and spread them around like it’s no big deal.

Violating someone’s privacy is a serious thing.

Think of it this way: would you like it if it happens to you?