Privacy In Public…Do You Know Your Rights?

The world today is changing rapidly due to the constant advancements in technology. Our children are now being raised in the digital age. Many would say technology has brought positive results in improving communication and has helped bring us together by removing the distance that once separated us around the world.

Today, most everyone in society has a cell phone. Nearly every phone has a camera and many have access to the internet. The next time you are at the mall or a social event, take a few minutes to look around to see just how many people are on their phone. The digital age is everywhere. You can literally relay information from one end of the world to another within moments. Most of these transmissions are done through cell phones via emails, text messages or instantly uploading to social media networks for the entire world to see.

Limited Expectation of Privacy in Public

Have you ever thought about the flip side of this simple and convenient cell phone feature in regards to privacy for your family? Did you know if you are out in public that you and your family are fair game for anyone that wants to take your picture or video? If you are in public, your expectation of privacy is far less than when you are inside your home, a restroom, or on private property. Anyone in a public place can take pictures or videos of anything they want, including you or your children without your consent. This includes your regular family outings to the zoo, park, mall, parade, restaurants, etc. Anyone can point, snap, share and upload images of you and your family without asking your permission. Of course, someone cannot position themselves to take inappropriate pictures, like up a lady’s skirt or down her blouse; that is called voyeurism and is definitely illegal.

greg and coop park

It’s shocking but true; you might scroll through Instagram and come across a picture that someone took of your child, and there is absolutely nothing you can do to get it removed. This simple and convenient feature of technology can also be a nuisance and scary thing when in the hands of the wrong person.

This would most likely be of no concern if it were a cameraman from the newspaper or television station working on a news story that took a picture of your family or child. The real concern for parents is when the person with the camera is taking pictures of your young child for no apparent reason, and they continue taking pictures even after you have asked them to stop. How does a parent know if this person has less than noble intentions? Could this person be a predator? A parent should ask themselves: does it feel right, or do they have a gut feeling that something is wrong? They don’t call it mother’s intuition for nothing, but what do you do?

I consulted with the Louisiana State Police to clarify our rights as parents when we are out in public places with our family. Louisiana State Police Sergeant Nick Manale confirmed, “Courts have ruled that once you and your children are in public, your expectation of privacy is far less, making them fair game for any type of visual recordings including security cameras, photographers, or the media. However, should a parent observe an adult suspiciously and obviously taking pictures of children that they have no association with, especially at a gated playground, they certainly have the right to report that activity to an authority figure or the police if necessary. It may be that the photographer in question is completely harmless, or perhaps he is someone that is banned from that area, a convicted sex offender with a court order to stay away from children, or even the suspect in an ongoing investigation. Parents are urged to use their best judgment and instincts based on each situation to determine the appropriate actions.”

Yes, your legal rights to privacy are limited when out in public. However, you absolutely have the right to call the police if you feel something is suspicious or someone is acting in a suspicious manner or harassing you. The police will come and investigate the situation. The person could be harmless or maybe a predator; either way, you should report the incident for the sake of your family and others.

As a mom, this issue totally makes me cringe. Our team was horrified to learn that our kids are 100% fair game when we are out in public. As parents, it is our job to protect our kids and keep them safe. Although our rights are limited, I can breathe a little easier knowing that our law enforcement agencies encourage us to use our best judgment and to call the police if something seems suspicious.

Have you ever encountered a situation where someone took pictures of your children without your consent? What did you do? If this happens to you in the future, what will be your plan of action?

4 Responses to Privacy In Public…Do You Know Your Rights?

  1. Gretchen March 19, 2014 at 12:08 pm #

    Janie,

    Thanks so much for writing this article. I appreciate that NOMB does listen to their subscribers and write about the things that affect us. My daughter has twice been “victim” to someone taking her picture without my permission – once at Storyland and once at a parade. At Storyland the man followed us around and even after we asked him not to he continued to try and take her picture. I wasn’t sure what to do – my instincts did tell me to call the police but my heart wanted to think it was harmless. Looking back I really wish I had called the police – even if I had been wrong.

    • Janie March 24, 2014 at 12:38 pm #

      Gretchen, that is scary and suspicious. I always try to think the “best” of people too, but if I have a gut feeling that something is wrong, it is hard to ignore the feeling. I encourage you to call the police if the situation ever arises again, they are here to help us and you just never know what someone’s intentions are, especially if you have an uneasy feeling. Better safe than sorry, right?

  2. Kasey March 19, 2014 at 9:06 pm #

    I was glad to read this. Once, a few weeks ago, kids, husband and I were at the City park playground and I had a bad feeling about this gentleman that I saw taking pics on his iPad. I tried to see if he was with anyone but he ended up walking away alone. It really bothered me but I wasn’t sure what to do in that situation. I was busy running after my kids so I couldn’t stop to look up the number for park security. Keep your eyes peeled folks!

    • Janie March 24, 2014 at 12:40 pm #

      Kasey, I know you aren’t alone. I have had similar feelings and question people who sit alone on the bench at the park when there seems to be no kids with them. Now you know to use your gut and never hesitate to call the police if something doesn’t seem right!

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