Public and private space. What are they really? Originally your private space was in your home, and your public space was out and about; anywhere outside of the house. But today these spaces are not so easily defined. With more interactions and activity on the internet, it can be difficult to understand whether what you do is public or private. If you post a photo on Facebook, and your profile is set on secret, does that make your photo private? If you write a blog post that can be accessed by anyone is that public? Is the internet only private or public based on the content you post and the security measures you take to keep them safe? These are all questions many scholars have tried to answer.
According to Mackie-Mason and Lesk (2011), soon all space will be public space. They believe we are choosing to live more and more publicly, and although there are security options available to try to stay private, these technologies are not evolving quickly enough to keep up with privacy-releasing technologies.
Keeping content private on the internet that you have uploaded yourself can be hard, but keeping content of others private is near impossible. This takes us into the territory of video surveillance and public photography.
Laws in NSW allow people to video tape and photograph other people without their permission if they are in a public space. When it comes to uploading this content to the internet or using it for other professional uses, the law requires you ask the person/people in the footage for permission to release that footage (Arts Law Centre of Australia 2014). There are also ethical considerations to take under advisement when using footage of other people. You might choose to use a photo of someone on your blog, knowing they will probably never see it. But is that an invasion of their privacy? It’s important to understand the implications of using a person’s photo or footage without their permission.
The use of media technologies in public is another interesting concept. When there is a large group watching a large screen like in the photo on the left, it is known that the content being shown is public and therefore part of that public setting. However when individuals are using smaller devices such as laptops or phones (also shown in the image), those devices are regarded as private. For example, if you were reading your Facebook posts on your laptop, and a stranger came up behind you and started reading over your shoulder, you would feel like your privacy was being invaded. But that’s in a public space, and that person has the right to do that because they aren’t in your home.
Given these advancements in technology, the current laws might be too outdated to provide the level or privacy or security people now need. For example, a couple was filmed having intercourse on a secluded, dark rooftop by a police helicopter with high-grade surveillance technology (Dwyer 2005). The couple was filmed for four minutes. The police department claim the footage was taken to ensure there was no risk of the couple throwing objects at the police below. The man on the roof has filed charges because he feels his privacy was invaded and disrespected (Dwyer 2005). Due to these type of scenarios, and always evolving technologies, laws need to change to better protect the privacy of people in public spaces.
Arts Law Centre of Australia 2014, Street Photographers Rights, Art Law Information Sheet, viewed 4 September 2014, <http://www.artslaw.com.au/info-sheets/info-sheet/street-photographers-rights/>.
Dwyer, J 2005, Police Video Caught a Couple’s Intimate Moment on a Manhattan Rooftop, New York Times, December 22, accessed 4 September 2014, <http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/22/nyregion/22rooftop.html?pagewanted=print&_r=0>.
Lesk, M & Mackie-Mason, J 2011, All Space Will Be Public Space, Security and Privacy Economics, pp. 77-80, viewed 4 September 2014 <http://ieeexplore.ieee.org.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=6029363>.