A Code of Ethics For Photography & Internet (esp. facebook)
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Victoria Free Presbyterian Church
Rev. Ian Goligher  |  Victoria, British Columbia
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A Code of Ethics For Photography & Internet (esp. facebook)
Posted by: Victoria Free Presbyterian Church | more..
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With every major invention in the world it takes society time to adapt to it. This is true for things as common as the motor car: laws to regulate driving and safeguard passengers developed as the motor car developed. The same is true for everyday activities such as banking, fishing and air travel, etc. The days when one could set up a tent at a lakeside and fish at will have disappeared and full body scanners now adorn airports terminals where once a single security guard was deemed sufficient. The problem lies in the fact that with these innovative additions to life we are so taken with the advantages and endless possibilities that we fail to recognize the potential difficulties and the laws and regulations which restrict and protect are often developed in retrospect.

The same is true with regards to photography. The use of the digital camera together with the internet is an area that is still experiencing teething problems. Film photography was cumbersome compared to digital photography. It took time to focus and position the subject to ensure that frames were not wasted. However, with the quick autofocus of the digital camera people can shoot at will and delete unwanted photos later with no financial loss. As a result, photographs are taken that are off-guard and often impolite. The problem is compounded by the fact that many of these images are uploaded to the internet within seconds for the world to see.

With the juxtaposing of digital photography and the internet there is a code of ethics with regard to personal privacy that is fast on the road to extinction. There is a generation gap between the pre-internet mindset and the Millennial Generation that fails to take into account the personal feelings of those who do not share the same enthusiasm for publicity that many young people today do.

Let me illustrate: you are invited into a home (perhaps an older person) who feels a little uncomfortable with the spontaneity of a digital camera. Despite this discomfort the host “lets his hair down” and enjoys the evening with you. He is gracious enough to indulge you as you record the evening with photographs. When you leave the home you upload the photos to facebook to share your experience with others. This may seem of little consequence to the Millennial Generation, but to many of a pre-internet generation it is regarded as an invasion of privacy. Although written hypothetically, this sort of unwitting disrespect is common. When you abuse hospitality in this way you leave your footprint in that home and it becomes unwelcome (Proverbs 25:17 “Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbour's house; lest he be weary of thee…”).

There is more at stake here than mere social dysfunction or generational disconnect; there is the biblical principle of respect for others compromised. Someone of the Millennial Generation, which has a love-affair with publicity, might say I am “doing unto others as I would have them do to me.” (Matthew 7:12). This sort of reasoning is a misinterpretation of the biblical code of ethics. The principle goes deeper than the external activity to the internal feelings of the person. In other words while you might like photographs of you posted on the web, yet you do not like being disrespected or your feelings compromised.

General Rules of Respect for photographing

1. Respect Children: Photos of children in particular can put their lives at risk at the hands of child predators. Also if there are children of separated or divorced parents or foster children it is ill-advised to publicise their activity on the web. Photographs of children should be posted with great discretion and with the advice and consent of their parents/guardians.

2. Respect Adults: Adults are generally more aware that some activities are location and time oriented. For example, an adult may relax his/her decorum in a given situation which could not be appropriated transcribed to a world-wide audience. An adult may engage in youthful activities to accommodate a particular occasion and that occasion cannot be adequately relayed to all who view internet photographs.

3. Respect Personal Privacy: Many people are camera shy and prefer not to have their picture taken much less posted on the World Wide Web. This is a basic human right. There should be no secret photographing. i.e. no hidden camera’s.

4. Reflect: Photos or comments posted on the web are like the tongue; they reveal the heart and articulate who we are (Matthew 12:34 “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh”). Just as the damage caused by our tongue cannot be easily undone so a photo or comment on the internet cannot be easily retracted (cf. James 3:8). Put some thought into what photos or comments you post. As a general rule less and more specific is better than more and random.

What Photographs are Generally Appropriate for the Internet?\

1. Large group photos: Photo such as sports events, dining room shots, or posed group shots.

2. Distance photos: General photos where people are standing talking or engaged in normal conversation / activity.

3. Posed photographs: Photos where the subject is aware of the camera and has given consent to being photographed for web-publishing.

Aaron Dunlop, May 2011

Category:  Miscellaneous

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