January 27, 2010

Indignation Vs. Privacy

Last year, I had an incident where a former photography teacher attempted to draw me into a debate about taking photographs without permission. Immediately after this event, I stopped taking pictures of people sleeping on public transit. Also, I’ve become much more careful about taking pictures at public events.

Needless to say, I find the recent brouhaha caused by this photo of a sleeping TTC worker very interesting. George Robitaille, the worker in the photo, obviously couldn’t ask that the photo not be taken. Regardless, he has become the lightning rod for transit users’ discontent with the TTC. In light of the recent fare hike and the bad disposition of some employees, this is not a surprise. However, it seems as if George’s right to privacy has taken a back seat to our right to use him as a whipping boy. None of the stories I’ve heard or seen about this photograph have even mentioned the privacy issue. The situation isn’t much better on the photo’s TwitPic page; only two users mentioned personal rights in their comments. Having said that, both of them made fair points.

In light of my aforementioned experience, I likely would not take a photo of a sleeping TTC worker if I saw one. Given how I handled my “debate” with the former photography teacher, I don’t think I’d be prepared for the ensuing privacy questions. Then again, since they’ve taken a backseat to customer indignation in George’s situation, I’d probably have nothing to worry about.

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