Watchdog warns photographers over street pictures

November 3, 2010

If a person ?actively objects? to having their picture taken in a public place then photographers should not publish that image, the privacy watchdog has warned.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) was responding to an enquiry by Amateur Photographer after the watchdog said it has been contacted by people concerned over photos taken without permission and posted on the internet.

While the watchdog said the Data Protection Act ?in no way? prevents people taking photos in public and publishing them, an ICO spokesman told AP: ?However, some circumstances will require photographers to exercise judgement on the taking and publishing of photographs.

?If an individual actively objects to having their photo taken or if a photograph is taken without an individual?s consent in circumstances which could clearly cause them distress or embarrassment, then it is good practice not to use that image.?

While the ICO this week said it has no plans to issue ?specific guidance? on the use of photographs, the spokesman added: ?However, the publication of photos online is part of a wider issue about individuals? use of the internet which is an issue we are looking at.?

Section 36 of the Data Protection Act 1998 provides an exemption for anyone processing personal data ? which includes taking and publishing photographs ? purely for ?personal, family or household affairs?. This specifically includes ‘recreational purposes’.

The spokesman added: ?[The Data Protection Act] does not stipulate that photographers, whether professional or amateur, must gain the consent of everyone they photograph before they publish photos.

?Professional and amateur photographers taking photos in the street, at a festival or at a football match, for example, do not need to obtain the consent of the individuals who appear in their photos.?

Free download!

Get your free digital download of Improve Your Photography - Nature!