I’ve recently been making it a habit to take photographs at the conferences I’ve been attending, and in some cases have begun posting some of those pictures to socalTECH’s Facebook profile and the photo sharing site Flickr, for use in stories and blog posts. In doing so, I’ve run across a very, very distinct “generation gap” in the privacy expectations of people here in the technology community.
That “generation gap” is around what are the reasonable assumptions one would have about how private, or not, photos and video should be in this day and age of social networking and the Internet. I’ve found that there seems to be an age line (somewhere around the age of 30 or so) where people are very, very concerned about their privacy and image. Above that age line, there are visceral and very strong reactions to having their photograph posted to a blog, photo sharing site, or Facebook–even if it’s to a limited audience; below that line, there’s almost a total nonchalance and feeling that it’s “business as usual” to share fleeting images of your life.
From a strickly legal point of view (though I’m not a lawyer–informed legal opinions welcome), photographers who are taking pictures for use in magazines, newspapers, or for other news usage, do not need to get a person’s permission to use that photo. You usually need a model release and permission only if you are taking a picture that is going to be used in an advertisement, brochure, catalog, or other commercial usage. However, in practical usage in the pre-Internet social networking world, that meant that most folks would never ever get their image published anywhere, unless perhaps they were at a local event that ran an article on a weekend happening, or if you were a celebrity someone really cared to see in print.
With the advent of social networking and photo sharing sites, it seems that those social norms — that you weren’t likely to have your image published somewhere even if someone took your photo — have shifted dramatically. In fact, if you are regularly out in the community at conferences and events, or a speaker at a panel, you’re very, very likely to have a picture of you posted from that event, or have you in the background of one of the half a dozen video podcasters wandering around. Plus, there are so many people now with cell phone cameras or taking their own digital photos, that you’re likelihood of being photographed and posted on the Internet are quite high. However, that fact apparently hasn’t dawned upon everyone involved, particularly the post 30′s crowd.
I was recently at the AlwaysOn OnHollywood event, and ran across a venture capitalist (not from the area) who was on a panel, and asked him if I could take a picture of him for the newsletter. His answer: “No– No flickr! No Facebook!” And this was someone who was being streamed live via web cam to thousands of people in the AlwaysOn live broadcast. In another case, I took picture of someone — with permission — to try to show the many folks here in the community networking, and they asked me to take the picture down. It’s actually not the first time I’ve run across this, it just seems to be a regular occurrence now — folks I know who are in their 20′s want their photo taken, posted, and tagged on Facebook; those who are over 30 — want nothing to do with this new world of photo sharing, Facebook tagging, and Flickr. It’s a very interesting, distinct generation gap.
So what does that mean to you? I think it’s clear that there’s a shift in opinions on how much privacy people are willing to give up in the day and age of social networks; those opinions are very different depending on your age group; and startups and technology companies are going to have to adapt to different norms on privacy expectations for their services. Adoption of services for the “No Flickr! No Facebook!” crowd will be distinctly different from the “See me on the Internet!” crowd. It will be interesting to watch.