A recent post by ‘that girl’ over at the Thinking Out Loud website raised the point about bloggers’ lack of awareness about ethics.

Before I start I should say that I willingly participated in some photographic moments last night. I choose which ones to do (ones with sponsors of the awards categories etc). But already this morning my full name and pictures of me that I didn’t consent to participate in are all over the web…What I don’t see is a conversation emerging from Irish bloggers about the permissions we seek to use the information we propagate. Blogging is a privilege, a tremendous exercise in free speech. But as we can see from the recent Danish cartoons episode, publishing also carries responsibilities. Each time I see a photograph of a child or a member of the public on a blog I ask myself how their consent was registered. Once it’s out there in cyberspace there’s no taking it back. How many people do we ask? And it’s not just about images – it’s also in words.

Her point mirrors recent comments by Richard Delevan in the wake of the Dublin Riots also.

I’ve talked before about how recordable our lives are due to blogs, digital cameras, etc and it is quite evident that we have a lot of growing up to do. You only have to visit Bebo, visit any of the featured homepages and you’ll most likely land on a college student’s page with a diary of their shenanigans and photos of their antics while binge drinking. They remain extremely ignorant of the fact that all those information can be found through Google. So while Friday nights antics will be forgotten about after a week or two in their minds, ten years down the line when their prospective employer drops their name into Google, those antics aren’t a thing of the past anymore.

As that girl points out though, for all the talk of the government encroaching on our privacy, we have more to fear from our fellow bloggers than any government official. Have a look at the Flickr stream for photos tagged drunk. I wonder how many people in these images gave their consent?

We are slowly approaching a rather strange situation. People are actively opening up their lives to the world via the Internet, but we are slowly becoming hesitant about what we disclose about ourselves for fear of future repercussions. At the moment you have to go to an event like the Irish Blog Awards to get a sense of how easy it is for your image to be uploaded onto the Internet. Just wait until the Bebo generation are doing this every Saturday night.

All it’s going to take is the usual tabloid expose about what goes on at teenage discos to shift to exposing how teenagers are publishing what goes on at teenage discos online, and suddenly the focus is going to be on the online world.

We like to think of ourselves as citizen journalists, in reality we’re more like citizen paparazzi.

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9 Responses to “Why you won’t be saying cheese for much longer”  

  1. 1 MJ

    I don’t think this is a blogger problem.

    It’s a “get used to it” problem. When you enter a room with 20 people, you’re accompanied with probably 19 cameras and 15 very competent voice recorders. Non-bloggers have been dealing with this. Seems a bit revisionist to suddenly take objection.

    When you take your first drink of the night, don’t just think “Glad I left the car keys at home” but also “Am I going to get ****faced and ruin my career?”

    If you don’t want to get photographed, stay at home.

    And yeah, we’re not trained journalists. We’re news opportunists venting opinion rather than researched fact. We are the papparazzi. Yet we roar.

  2. 2 Elana

    I don’t know the rules in Ireland, but in the US the news does not have to get your permission to broadcast a picture of you doing something “newsworthy”. A tv/movie, however, does (and has been held hostage many times when soemone in the background doesn’t allow their likeness used).

    I see Flickr as more cititzen journalists, as are bloggers. Maybe at the blogging summit, we need a journalist to go over the ethics/rules of privacy regarding print (for bloggers)/broadcast (for podcasters).

  3. 3 Ann

    I definitely think you have to make the distinction between participating in public or newsworthy events and going about your daily private life. If you’re at a public awards ceremony or you’re throwing bricks at the gardai in the middle of the main avenue, you’ve waved a certain amount of your privacy rights.

    Now, if I identify one of the young fellas throwing bricks and then spend the rest of my days following him around, taking and posting photos of him on the bus, in the off license, in his own flat, then I’ve clearly crossed an ethical line.

    Are there grey areas between those examples? Of course there are. But it’s unfair to criticize the ethics of citizen-journalists, who are mostly operating on a common-sense and do-unto-others-type basis.

  4. 4 that girl

    The idea that “citizen journalists” are a homogenous group with the same ethical standpoint is a joke…the Irish blog world hasn’t even begun to take this issue seriously and Damien’s post today and my follow up to it are an attempt to start a discussion that genuinely needs to be had.

    Once your stuff is out there in cyberspace it isn’t coming back…how would you like a photo of you, taken without your knowledge even if you were s**t faced at a party posted on a website and turning up when a prospective employer Googles you? Through no fault of your own you’ve been labelled in some way. It’s happening all the time and I just want to have a discussion about the part bloggers play in all of that.

  5. 5 MJ

    I don’t think we need a meta-ethic about journalistic integrity. You can take responsibility for your own life. Don’t want to get photographed taking a leak down a side street and elaving yourself open to litigation for indecent exposure? Then don’t do it.

    Being drunk is not illegal. No employer will take issue with you drinking at a party. However if YOU are an Rse when drunk is something YOU should take responsibility for rather than trying to blame a snap-happy blogger. Getting yourself into the situation where you can be a figure of ridicule because you’ve pee’ed yourself while unconscious on a park bench is a different matter altogether.

    “Oh dear, my inability to exercise some self-control and keep my wits about me when drinking has suddenly become an issue for an employer because of someone’s camera phone!”

    Take some responsibility, folk.

  6. 6 Tom

    How I behave at work, the opinions I express and the language I use are different to how I behave with my friends or family. I’d imagine it’s the same with most people. Part of the problem with the development of the eternal archive that is the net is that private moments, even ones captured by the camera of a friend, are now there for all to see.

    A picture of someone doing drugs when they were in college, not exactly an unheard of event, can come back to haunt someone ten years down the line when their name is googled. Now, part of the problem of the ‘everyone is fair game’ argument ‘roared’ by the citizen paperazzi is that their argument, when used in connection with the internet, becomes ‘everyone is fair game, everywhere in the world, for the rest of their lives’.

    The argument that no-one should do anything ever, anywhere with anyone without thinking of their long term career prospects is, to me anyway, almost too preposterous to discuss. Anyone who really believes that, and who calculates every action on it’s possible impact on a potential job at some indeterminate point in the future seems to me to be a bit anally retentive.

    Some of the most useful lessons that i have learned in life have been as a result of my mistakes, stupidity(more often than not!) and decisions that have been… illadvised is the best way to put. I’ve learned from these incidents, and i shouldn’t be forced to have to defend myself, or be embarassed by them, at some time in the future if someone googles my name.

  1. 1 Tuppenceworth.ie blog » Image Control
  2. 2 Adam Maguire’s Blog » Anti-social media
  3. 3 Say cheese, you’re a criminal! at Piaras Kelly PR - Irish Public Relations


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