“She posted my photo on Facebook without my permission”

A little while ago, I had a client who told me that while they were eating dinner at a restaurant, a friend took her picture, along with several others at the table. She was smiling with the others, a typical shot, with nice light and part of the other tables behind. She didn’t mind her picture being taken, until she saw it posted on Facebook the next day. There was nothing embarrassing about the photo, nothing revealing or sensitive or private in any way. But she said “it was just the idea that she didn’t even think to ask me if it was OK to post it”.

Some people do not like their faces or photos in the public view.

I don’t know if my client ever told her friend how she honestly felt. It wasn’t a legal issue, since there was no issue of propriety or privacy in the situation (a public setting), and no issue of libel or slander. She felt it was an issue of courtesy, considering the possibility that what you don’t know about a subject may hurt them by posting a photograph without their consent.

As she told me this, the questions came flooding into my mind: If someone is out in public, do they give implied consent that its OK  have themselves photographed? Is there any difference to being seen versus photographed —  any line that is crossed?

And, presumably, is that line further crossed if that photograph is posted or published?

From a more practical view, do you really have time to ask everyone you photograph if it’s OK to photograph them?

Assuming there is no obvious slander or public embarrassment involved (nudity, etc.), from a moral standpoint (forgetting legal considerations mentioned above) should you ask every subject — especially in a public setting — if it’s OK to post the photos online, offline, or somewhere you may not even know yet?