Ethics of photography under spotlight

The law and ethics of taking and sharing images in a world where everyone has a camera was in the spotlight this morning, as part of an expert panel discussion on ABC Radio’s Brisbane Focus program.

Griffith University Senior Research Fellow Dr Hugh Breakey joined QUT’s Dr Kylie Pappalardo and photographer Jason to respond to questions from listeners on the topic.

Dr Breakey says everyone having a camera raises a lot of ethical issues.

“You have different ethical issues that can arise with each step that they can take.

“As well as all the ethical issues to do with copyright, privacy, private property and so on, you’ve got these different decision nodes that you work your way through.

“Taking a photo might be okay, putting it online might be okay, but the way you frame it and the way you provide information about it, that might be the thing that gets people to say ‘hang on, now I feel like I’ve been wronged here with what you’ve done’.”

Photographs of children were of concern to listeners, particularly over who can take a photograph and whether posting photographs of their children online was something they should or should not do.

Dr Breakey says it’s a tricky area because it is something that is a normal thing parents might want to do.

“In a lot of ways, it is perfectly normal behaviour that has become problematic because of the changes we see in technology and in social media and so on,” he says.

“I think it is such a natural and intuitive and fun thing that people often wouldn’t think about it in terms of a bigger ethical decision they have to make or something that might impact on the future of their child in some way.

“But now we are actually having to confront that in a way that we haven’t before.”

Dr Breakey is president of the Australian Association for Professional and Applied Ethics a senior research fellow at the Institute for Ethics, Governance and Law. You can listen to the discussion here.