Digital Manners Required...

My phone/camera is always with me...

Christmas is over, and New Year celebrations are pending. Like thousands of people, I have taken tens of photos over the Festive Season so far, some with my iPhone and others with my camera and quite a few have been uploaded to my Facebook page so that I can share them with friends, near and far.

An uploaded photo to be shared only with "friends"

I read a news report yesterday  in the West Australian newspaper, and quoting The Telegraph. about the sister of Facebook chief, Mark Zuckerberg,  Randi, being tripped up by the company’s privacy setting.  According to Associated Press, a picture that Randi posted on her personal Facebook profile was seen by a marketing director who then posted the picture to Twitter and her more than 40,000 followers.

Randi then tweeted that the picture was meant for friends only and that posting the private picture on Twitter was “way uncool”:  The marketing director replied by saying the picture popped up on her Facebook news feed.

I always ask permission before taking a photo...a small shop in central Java (photo LP)

 Ms Zuckerberg then eventually realised that the marketing director was able to see the picture because they had a mutual friend. She went on to write about online sharing etiquette, posting on Twitter:  “Digital etiquette:  always ask permission before posting a friend’s photo publicity.  It’s not about privacy settings, it’s about human decency”.

Image from Clipart Images
Her comments apparently sparked sharp reactions from people who thought the issue wasn’t about etiquette but rather Facebook’s often changing and often confusing privacy settings.

We have often seen in the media and online, photos taken on smartphones which often represent a gross invasion of privacy.  And this is not just about celebrities…it is about all of us who find ourselves captured on phone cameras, whether we know it and whether we like it or not. In this digital age, we usually don’t mind if we are on the edge of some stranger’s photograph at a party, social event, or restaurant.  None of us has a copyright on our own image.

But there can be a darker side to phone cameras, with the bullying of schoolchildren, regularly reported;   Facebook “friends” posting pictures of their drunken friends for the world to see.  In this holiday season, a lot of people will be hoping that they are not tagged on Facebook sites by that one night “friend” they had a drink too many with. And what about the romantic night which went sour; were intimate photos taken which could be passed around to people you have never met?

Stall holders preparing for market, again permission to photograph requested. Central Java (photo LP)

Requesting  permission to "tag" should be understood as appropriate digital etiquette. We should not have to rely on a third party, such as Facebook, to indicate, through our privacy settings, when we have been tagged...friendship and respect should suggest, in my opinion, such a request

A batik painter, happy to be photographed, Central Java (photo LP)

I believe there is not a law, at present, to protect our privacy from phone cameras; but I believe a new mode of internet manners and social mores must emerge, when the freedom to take and publish pictures of social gatherings isn’t blithely assumed, just because it is possible...and increasingly seen as 'normal'. 

Having respect for others is a major component in choosing to be well mannered.  And right now we need a code of digital etiquette  so that we are not finding ourselves always on our guard in the way that celebrity figures have to contend with the paparazzi. 


  1. Posting the picture of another without permission is about human decency, but many people probably don't understand exactly why. Netiquette is a better word choice in my humble opinion. Internet ethics requires doing what is right without regard for what is possible. It is possible to save pictures of others that appear on the internet and repost them. It is unethical to do this without permission. Ethics are the laws of human decency.

  2. David, welcome and thank you for your comment. I completely agree with you...yes, Netiquette has been around for some years as a term for a code of appropriate internet behaviour.I enjoyed reading your blog.


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