Google Photographs In Public Places, And So Do We

24 04 2008

Google has been trying to prohibit people from photographing their trade show booth at the Web 2.0 Expo. I’m getting really sick of all this. While this pales in comparison to the kind of photographer harassment I’ve whined about in the past, it does demonstrate a continuing odd attitude held by many toward photographers in public places. It’s one thing if you’re a badge-drunk sheriff’s deputy in San Antonio -but quite another for a forward-thinking technology company. It makes even less sense for a company that takes pictures of public streets and buildings and then makes them publicly available.

I can only assume this is a overzealous company employee gone a bit far on his five minutes of power – or maybe they’re just embarrassed about their booth, which does look like it stepped out of a Michelin commercial (h/t to someone on Digg for that comment.) I suppose it could be someone at O’Reilly or TechWeb (the conference producers) driving this, but I seriously doubt it.

I’d refer to Google’s comments in response to the privacy concerns raised about their Street View service:

“Street View only features imagery taken on public property … this imagery is no different from what any person can readily capture or see walking down the street.”

I agree with Google, as does US case law, which says that in a public place one cannot have a “reasonable expectation of privacy.” That means I can take pictures – even of your awful booth.

Guys – I love ya, but you’re wrong on this.

[Update: The company apparently has reversed course, according to Google engineer Bob Lee.]

15 responses to “Google Photographs In Public Places, And So Do We”
25 04 2008
War On Photographers? - Political Forum - US & World Political Discussion Forums (00:20:40) :

[…] On Photographers? Because of what happened with Google today, I’ve been inspired to resurrect this issue of photographer harassment. Thomas Hawk has also […]

28 04 2008
Sam (08:36:57) :

Um, if you are at their tradeshow on private property they are absolutely within their rights to prohibit photography.,,,

28 04 2008
Frode Hegland (08:40:35) :

But Sam, you can take pictures of a building even if it’s not government owned right?

28 04 2008
Henrik B (09:26:46) :

Frode, you can take pictures of a building as long as you are on public property. If you have to enter private property to take the picture, the property owner are within their rights to restrict photography whichever way they want.

28 04 2008
Sam (08:36:57) :

Um, if you are at their tradeshow on private property they are absolutely within their rights to prohibit photography.,,,

28 04 2008
Frode Hegland (08:40:35) :

But Sam, you can take pictures of a building even if it’s not government owned right?

28 04 2008
Anthony (11:00:46) :

Google doesn’t own the property and thus, they weren’t asserting property rights. I shouldn’t have referred to the Moscone as public property, and I apologize.

But under prior case law, I still think the company’s ability to have a “reasonable expectation of privacy” (the legal standard to which they referred in their Google Street View statement to the New York Times) at a trade show – one that is open to the public and where photography is permitted – is effectively zero.

As for the actual owners, the TechWeb / O’Reilly folks are not going to ask Moscone to bar photography at this event. The other exhibitors and attendees would not have it.

Anyway, about an hour later, Google straightened out the booth personnel and photographs were allowed.

28 04 2008
Henrik B (09:26:46) :

Frode, you can take pictures of a building as long as you are on public property. If you have to enter private property to take the picture, the property owner are within their rights to restrict photography whichever way they want.

28 04 2008
Anthony (11:00:46) :

Google doesn’t own the property and thus, they weren’t asserting property rights. I shouldn’t have referred to the Moscone as public property, and I apologize.

But under prior case law, I still think the company’s ability to have a “reasonable expectation of privacy” (the legal standard to which they referred in their Google Street View statement to the New York Times) at a trade show – one that is open to the public and where photography is permitted – is effectively zero.

As for the actual owners, the TechWeb / O’Reilly folks are not going to ask Moscone to bar photography at this event. The other exhibitors and attendees would not have it.

Anyway, about an hour later, Google straightened out the booth personnel and photographs were allowed.

28 04 2008
Jim Warren (13:44:14) :

Uh, folks. I ran the West Coast Computer Faires in San Francisco for eight years (last one I ran, in 1983, drew more’n 47,000 attendees), and I’ll tell ya – unless the trade-show itself prohibits taking photos in the exhibit areas (which show-owners would almost-never prohibit, since they/we LIKE publicity!), it absolutely IS permissible for anyone to take photos of any areas open to public/attendee access.

(Incidentally, that also includes taking photos in the technical sessions that are organized and operated by the show management, unless prohibited by said management. It also includes photographing of individual attendees, as long as they are in the open/public areas where the admission-paying or freebie attendees are permitted. [Of course, such “public” areas do NOT include the restrooms, etc.])

–jim, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Warren

28 04 2008
Jim Warren (13:45:34) :

Oh, one caveat however: Exhibitors rent their exhibit space – the booth-space they occupy. As such (and within the limits of their rental contract with the show manager), they CAN control what people do while WITHIN their booth-space. However – just as we (and Google) CAN take whatever photos we desire while remaining in a public area (e.g. on a street as StreetView does) – attendees can take whatever photos they darn-well please, as long as they remain in the aisles and other areas where they are permitted (by the show management and their admission) to be.

–jim

28 04 2008
Jim Warren (13:44:14) :

Uh, folks. I ran the West Coast Computer Faires in San Francisco for eight years (last one I ran, in 1983, drew more’n 47,000 attendees), and I’ll tell ya – unless the trade-show itself prohibits taking photos in the exhibit areas (which show-owners would almost-never prohibit, since they/we LIKE publicity!), it absolutely IS permissible for anyone to take photos of any areas open to public/attendee access.

(Incidentally, that also includes taking photos in the technical sessions that are organized and operated by the show management, unless prohibited by said management. It also includes photographing of individual attendees, as long as they are in the open/public areas where the admission-paying or freebie attendees are permitted. [Of course, such “public” areas do NOT include the restrooms, etc.])

–jim, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Warren

28 04 2008
Jim Warren (13:45:34) :

Oh, one caveat however: Exhibitors rent their exhibit space – the booth-space they occupy. As such (and within the limits of their rental contract with the show manager), they CAN control what people do while WITHIN their booth-space. However – just as we (and Google) CAN take whatever photos we desire while remaining in a public area (e.g. on a street as StreetView does) – attendees can take whatever photos they darn-well please, as long as they remain in the aisles and other areas where they are permitted (by the show management and their admission) to be.

–jim

28 04 2008
Outtanames999 (17:28:45) :

In fact, the presumption of photography at will is so great that at most trade shows and conferences today, as an attendees, you typically give them the right to use your likeness when you register. (Read the fine print.) In fact, if you, for some reason do NOT want your photo taken, you have to assert that point with the show management (if the fine print allows that option – if not you would have to forego attending to ensure you are not videotaped or photographed).

28 04 2008
Outtanames999 (17:28:45) :

In fact, the presumption of photography at will is so great that at most trade shows and conferences today, as an attendees, you typically give them the right to use your likeness when you register. (Read the fine print.) In fact, if you, for some reason do NOT want your photo taken, you have to assert that point with the show management (if the fine print allows that option – if not you would have to forego attending to ensure you are not videotaped or photographed).

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