Privacy in a world of lifestreaming

Piaras’s post where he thinks a little less privacy for better customer service is not so bad, reminded me of a piece I wrote for the Trib about all these new technologies which when combined could easily stalk us. Tim O’Reilly mentions the UK where policemen will be wearing head cams and the privacy implications.

For someone that doesn’t want to be online, they probably are already in their friend’s Bebo profiles with pictures and videos of a 21st, at concert pictures with them in the background standing at the bar, in videos of people cavorting in public parks etc. etc. Is it just “tough luck” if you are in a photo and want it removed from the web? Is it “if you don’t want to end up online, then don’t step outside your house?”. We wouldn’t be talking about images that would ruin your reputation or anything but just images of yourself you don’t want others to be able to access. Will you end up like Michael Jackson with dark glasses, surgical masks and blankets over you? Or if a law comes in which says you have to get permission from everyone in your video before you can stick it online, does that totally screw over these streaming services? There doesn’t seem to be anything in the new TV/Media directives from the EU either to cover this.

Lifestreaming, like the movie Being John Malkovich will allow you to climb inside the head of someone and experience their day via a digital smorgasboard of public text messages, blog posts, gps tagged photos and (thanks to mobile broadband and tiny videocameras) a live video stream of them as they move around their world. Every person can now be their own TV channel and everything they do will leave digital footprints across the web on multiple websites. Something like this a complete surrender of privacy but as all these services stress, everyone opts in to this. However many of these sites seem to be like the Hotel California that the Eagles sang about: lovely places but can your data ever leave and what if your images were uploaded without permission?

Some of us might like our privacy and may never use these super-fad social networks but we’ll still show up in the peripheries of videos and photos and mentions in blog posts and texts. There may already be multiple websites where our image is stored online and we don’t even know it. If we do become aware of such things, we might have to go to two or four or even 12 different websites to try and have our data removed. When Google recently released street-level photos of cities in America, lots of people did not want the world to see them and asked for their images to be removed but Google demanded a scan of your drivers licence and a letter from you before they’d even consider removing your picture. That’s just Google and there are possibly hundreds more websites also hosting images and videos and text snippets about you.

Do companies *have* to remove your image on request? Can you tell them not to put your image up in future or do you have to chase down every image and request a removal for each one?

Update: Eoin replies.

6 Responses to “Privacy in a world of lifestreaming”

  1. Adam says:

    When I was studying in England Bebo was the bane of my existence.

    I didn’t have a page myself (partly because I had a blog and didn’t see the point, partly because it was only worthwhile if you gave private info away) but most other people in the course did.

    Every night out usually involved digital cameras from all angles and after the first few times it began to feel like being stalked by some kind of ingrained paparazzi – by the end of the year I was covering my face every time a picture was about to be taken, just in case.

    Now I realise that few if any of these pictures would have my name on them, let alone my full name so I wouldn’t be too nervous about them being found by a potential employer or something like that. That said, I still didn’t like them being online because I never gave permission for them to be published and, well, I’m out getting locked – I don’t want that to be broadcast to the world the next day.

    One morning the lot of us (there were 6 in the house) woke up to find that pictures from the night before had been uploaded on someone’s bebo already. I was a little freaked out.

    All that said I also realise this – if someone were to read all of my blog, read all of my posts on and do a bit of general snooping they could find out practically everything they needed about me. But if I’m going to have a stalker, I at least want them to put a little bit of effort into it!

  2. Anonymoose says:

    It all comes down to “Reasonable expectations of Privacy”
    By which I mean, If you are at home or in your back garden or in an enclosed private place then you have a reasonable expectation of privacy so your image can’t be used and distributed because it’s an invasion of privacy.
    If you’re at a concert or walking down the street then anyone can take your image because you’re in a public place. That’s how the paparazzi get away with it. It’s also why it’s legal for premises to film you on cctv as you do not have an “expectation of privacy” in their shop.
    Google on the other hand would probably not have to take down images of you from their street level photos. The exceptions to this would be if they took an image of you through a window etc. etc.

  3. Piaras Kelly says:

    Heard through a friend of a friend that picture editors now search Bebo when they’re looking for photos of people for news stories.

  4. […] Damien Mulley » Blog Archive » Privacy in a world of lifestreaming – Another Lifestreaming and Privacy post […]

  5. […] for missing kids. Not so great if you’d rather be left alone. How do we opt out of an always connected, always recording world? We can’t, unless we want […]

  6. […] this Joni Mitchell song going round in my head since I read Damien Mulley’s apocalyptic post Privacy in a world of lifestreaming on Friday (and the song is relevant to my point even though Joni has sold out to Starbucks – say it […]