The line between “expecation of privacy” and “invasion of privacy”


Photo by Michael Wolf

Photo by Michael Wolf



The New York Times photo blog posted an incredible collection of photos by Michael Wolf, who specializes in cityscape photography.

The photos of the buildings he takes are riveting with their constrained geometric patterns and sharp details.

But the photos he takes of the people inside their sanitariums of solitude are almost as compelling, if not more.

The question that has arose on the NYT blog is about whether or not Wolf was invading these people’s privacy?

Or did these people have an expectation of privacy by leaving their blinds open even though they knew they were surrounded by high rises?

The Times did not even think about this issue when they posted 20 of Wolf’s photos in a slideshow yesterday. It wasn’t until a few commenters started raising the issue that they were forced to post an update. Those damn commenters.

Update | 12:44 p.m. A number of readers (Comments 2, 4, 6 and 19) have wrestled with the question of whether Mr. Wolf crossed a line of privacy in showing people so recognizably in their homes and offices. As we understand it, the legal question is whether the subject of the photo had a reasonable expectation of privacy. In most states, the courts tend to side with photographers who are on public property, or their own property, and take pictures of things that could be witnessed by any passer-by. The thinking is that people have no expectation of privacy if they have placed themselves where strangers can glimpse them. In the next week or so, we hope to revisit this whole subject in greater depth.

I’m a little torn on this one because I can see both sides. But I will have to side with the photographer in this one because if those people truly wanted privacy, they could have drawn the blinds.

Perhaps they will once they see these photos.




Photo by Michael Wolf

Photo by Michael Wolf



The New York Times photo blog posted an incredible collection of photos by Michael Wolf, who specializes in cityscape photography.

The photos of the buildings he takes are riveting with their constrained geometric patterns and sharp details.

But the photos he takes of the people inside their sanitariums of solitude are almost as compelling, if not more.

The question that has arose on the NYT blog is about whether or not Wolf was invading these people’s privacy?

Or did these people have an expectation of privacy by leaving their blinds open even though they knew they were surrounded by high rises?

The Times did not even think about this issue when they posted 20 of Wolf’s photos in a slideshow yesterday. It wasn’t until a few commenters started raising the issue that they were forced to post an update. Those damn commenters.

Update | 12:44 p.m. A number of readers (Comments 2, 4, 6 and 19) have wrestled with the question of whether Mr. Wolf crossed a line of privacy in showing people so recognizably in their homes and offices. As we understand it, the legal question is whether the subject of the photo had a reasonable expectation of privacy. In most states, the courts tend to side with photographers who are on public property, or their own property, and take pictures of things that could be witnessed by any passer-by. The thinking is that people have no expectation of privacy if they have placed themselves where strangers can glimpse them. In the next week or so, we hope to revisit this whole subject in greater depth.

I’m a little torn on this one because I can see both sides. But I will have to side with the photographer in this one because if those people truly wanted privacy, they could have drawn the blinds.

Perhaps they will once they see these photos.



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Carlos Millerhttps://pinacnews.com
Editor-in-Chief Carlos Miller spent a decade covering the cop beat for various newspapers in the Southwest before returning to his hometown Miami and launching Photography is Not a Crime aka PINAC News in 2007. He also published a book, The Citizen Journalist's Photography Handbook, which is available on Amazon.

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