Sweden Makes It Illegal To Take Photos In 'Private Environments' Without Permission

from the how-will-that-work? dept

Here on Techdirt we’ve had stories about how the ubiquity of digital cameras is changing the way we look at public events and art. But as has also become clear, the ability to take photos of more or less everything we see brings with it certain problems — especially if what we see are police. So it was perhaps inevitable that the politicians would start to get involved, in order to “solve” some of those problems. Here’s a rather extreme example from Sweden, as reported by TechHive:

Sweden’s parliament has voted in favor of a law that bans taking pictures and filming in a private environment without first getting permission from people in attendance. Critics say the law is too ambiguous.

The Swedish Committee on Justice said the law, which goes into effect July 1, is needed since photographs or movies secretly shot in private settings can seriously violate an individual’s privacy, and protection has been inadequate.

Well, that may be true, but it’s hard to see how exactly this is going to work if you want to take a picture in a very crowded room, say — how exactly are you supposed to get everyone that might be in a photo, to agree? Does it have to be in writing so that you can prove it? And what about if it’s not a room, but still a “private environment”? Come to think of it, what exactly is that, anyway? From the article:

The law doesn’t specify what constitutes consent or define a private environment. For example, what happens if a journalist invites a business executive to a reception in the journalist’s home and secretly photographs the executive committing a criminal act, asked Maria Ferm, member of parliament for the Green Party, during the debate.

That underlines how this is likely to be used: to stop revelations of wrong-doing by public figures in private places. At least the new legislation is aware that this is an issue:

An exception from criminal liability is made if the act is justifiable in view of its purpose and other circumstances, and that provision includes journalistic work, according to the committee.

But until the exact limits of that provision are defined, along with what “justifiable” means, it seems inevitable that the new law will have a chilling effect on investigative journalism in Sweden. That’s rather ironic, since you might expect that the abundance of digital cameras today would lead to the rich and powerful being caught out and called to account more often, not less.

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Comments on “Sweden Makes It Illegal To Take Photos In 'Private Environments' Without Permission”

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out_of_the_blue says:

It's not all about "working", but about STATING MORALITY.

Law is (also) for teaching purposes, and you young ankle-biters who even haven’t learned toleration for dissent in comments here, clearly don’t understand that though laws may be somewhat impractical to apply, it’s statement by adult society of what behavior is acceptable.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: It's not all about "working", but about STATING MORALITY.

Oh, and about dissent. If you know of any posts on TechDirt that are constructive dissent or a discussion involving differing opinions, please point those posts out. I don’t see any.

Mike: How about a new feature? When a post is reported enough times, hide not only the post, but all of its replies. (Like this one you are reading now.) That would make the constructive or even merely funny posts more visible. It would cut down on the vast amount of non-productive noise.

Pragmatic says:

Re: It's not all about "working", but about STATING MORALITY.

Law is (also) for teaching purposes, and you young ankle-biters who even haven’t learned toleration for dissent in comments here, clearly don’t understand that though laws may be somewhat impractical to apply, it’s statement by adult society of what behavior is acceptable.

So calling us “anklebiters” is an example of a statement by adult society?

Cathy, I’m in my forties and able to think for myself. I also pride myself on my comprehension skills and ability to NOT contradict myself in the same sentence.

S. T. Stone says:

Re: It's not all about "working", but about STATING MORALITY.

You can dissent all you want.

But for the sake of all things Divine, do it in a mature and respectful manner. Calling people names and only coming here to shit up the place with your worthless comments does not constitute ?dissenting in a mature and respectful manner?.

You can disagree with the articles here on Techdirt and lay out the reasons why you disagree with it in a way that doesn?t make you sound as if you only came here to troll the comments.

When you feel ready to have an intelligent discussion on the merits of the article itself, feel free to start one. Until then?get used to the pink text, pal.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: It's not all about "working", but about STATING MORALITY.

Law is (also) for teaching purposes

No, it’s not. Law is to set out the rules of a society that subject you to state punishment. There’s nothing about them that is intended to be educational. Also, law is not intended to specify what is moral or not. Law is amoral.

What you’re talking about is mores, those societal rules that are just as potent as law but covers matters of morality rather than matters of law.

Johann Schwarz says:

Some questions that I hope the lawmakers have already considered

Good that Sweden is taking privacy protection so seriously, but I have three questions:
1. What problem does this law need to solve?
2. How is this possibly going to solve it?
3. Aren’t there alternatives that are less likely to cause collateral damage and if not, is solving the problem of #1 worth the damage?

DannyB (profile) says:

Wouldn't it be simpler . . .

It seems like it was be easier to just make photography illegal in private, public and on days ending in ‘Y’. This would apply to both still and motion photography. The government would be excluded from this restriction of course. To ensure compliance, video cameras could be installed into every home, and other private or public building.

I think this would make everyone happy.

NSA: Yes, we need this for national security, as well as the entertainment of our analysts.

RIAA: Yes, this would get rid of all those piracy enabling cell phones, tablets, laptops and many desktop computers.

ISPs: Yes, we would no longer need to invest in our infrastructure as all video traffic (and even still pictures) on the Internet would cease. People would stop complaining and start thinking internet speeds are fantastic, since all web pages would contain only text.

MPAA: Wait, a minute guys . . . Oh, wait. Nevermind, this would work for us! We would make all TV and movie content consist of reality programming based on all of the exempted state cameras in private places! Then we would need a law propping up the broadcast TV and cable industries. Maybe even a requirement for people to watch some minimum number of hours per day? It would be good for the economy.

Legislators: See everyone is happy. The little people should stop complaining and leave the business of governing to those who the Lesters selected to run things. Legislators know how to make everyone’s life better through more government.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Wouldn't it be simpler . . .

Better yet, have the government, with support from the MPAA record everything.
They can put cameras everywhere and constantly record all activity everywhere.

Rather than allowing someone to take pictures, cameras would be banned entirely and if you wanted a picture of something, you could submit a request (paying a modest fee) to get a copy of that image licensed to you for viewing on the device of your choosing for up to 30 days (I suppose they could license it to you for any period of time – priced accordingly).

They could also use “windowing” to make it more appealing to actually be there for an event while it is happening live. By only allowing people to license an image 28 days or more after an event happens, they could ensure that people would go to events rather than just looking of images of it. This would really help the transportation industry – and also corn farmers because people like to eat popcorn at airports.

Anonymous Coward says:

1. What problem does this law need to solve?
2. How is this possibly going to solve it?
3. Aren’t there alternatives that are less likely to cause collateral damage and if not, is solving the problem of #1 worth the damage?

1. Personal privacy
2. By making you ask permission
3. Yes, and no.

It is very simply, just like there are signs up in supermarkets saying.

“Entry is an acceptance that you are willing to have your bags searched”.

in this case it would be,

Entry into this location is permission to take photos.

Michael (profile) says:

Translated to Swedish Chef

Here-a oon Techdurt ve-a’fe-a hed stureees ebuoot hoo zee ubeeqooity ooff deegitel cemeres is chungeeng zee vey ve-a luuk et poobleec ifents und ert. Boot es hes elsu becume-a cleer, zee ebeelity tu teke-a phutus ooff mure-a oor less iferytheeng ve-a see-a breengs veet it certeeen prublems — ispeceeelly iff vhet ve-a see-a ere-a puleece-a. Su it ves perheps inefeeteble-a thet zee puleeticiuns vuoold stert tu get infulfed, in oorder tu &qoout;sulfe-a&qoout; sume-a ooff thuse-a prublems. Here-a’s a rezeer ixtreme-a ixemple-a frum Svedee, es repurted by TechHeefe-a:

Svedee’s perleeement hes futed in fefur ooff a lev thet buns tekeeng peectoores und feelming in a preefete-a infurunment veethuoot furst getteeng permeessiun frum peuple-a in ettendunce-a. Creetics sey zee lev is tuu embeegoouoos.

Zee Svedeesh Cummeettee-a oon Joosteece-a seeed zee lev, vheech gues intu iffffect Jooly 1, is needed seence-a phutugrephs oor mufeees secretly shut in preefete-a setteengs cun sereeuoosly feeulete-a un indeefidooel’s preefecy, und prutecshun hes beee inedeqooete-a.

Vell, thet mey be-a trooe-a, boot it’s herd tu see-a hoo ixectly thees is gueeng tu vurk iff yuoo vunt tu teke-a a peectoore-a in a fery crooded ruum, sey — hoo ixectly ere-a yuoo sooppused tu get iferyune-a thet meeght be-a in a phutu, tu egree-a? Dues it hefe-a tu be-a in vreeting su thet yuoo cun prufe-a it? Und vhet ebuoot iff it’s nut a ruum, boot steell a &qoout;preefete-a infurunment&qoout;? Cume-a tu theenk ooff it, vhet ixectly is thet, unyvey? Frum zee erteecle-a:

Zee lev duesn’t speceeffy vhet cunsteetootes cunsent oor deffeene-a a preefete-a infurunment. Fur ixemple-a, vhet heppens iff a juoorneleest infeetes a booseeness ixecooteefe-a tu a recepshun in zee juoorneleest’s hume-a und secretly phutugrephs zee ixecooteefe-a cummeetting a creeminel ect, esked Mereea Ferm, member ooff perleeement fur zee Greee Perty, dooreeng zee debete-a.

Thet underleenes hoo thees is leekely tu be-a used: tu stup refeleshuns ooff vrung-dueeng by poobleec feegoores in preefete-a pleces. Et leest zee noo legeesleshun is evere-a thet thees is un issooe-a:

Un ixcepshun frum creeminel leeebility is mede-a iff zee ect is joosteeffieble-a in feeoo ooff its poorpuse-a und oozeer curcoomstunces, und thet prufeesiun incloodes juoorneleestic vurk, eccurdeeng tu zee cummeettee-a.

Boot unteel zee ixect leemits ooff thet prufeesiun ere-a deffeened, elung veet vhet &qoout;joosteeffieble-a&qoout; meuns, it seems inefeeteble-a thet zee noo lev veell hefe-a a cheelling iffffect oon infesteegetife-a juoorneleesm in Svedee. Thet’s rezeer iruneec, seence-a yuoo meeght ixpect thet zee eboondunce-a ooff deegitel cemeres tudey vuoold leed tu zee reech und pooerffool beeeng cooght oooot und celled tu eccuoont mure-a oofftee, nut less. Bork Bork Bork!

Benny L (profile) says:

Some clarification

This law has three requisites, that need to be fulfilled for it to take effect:

1) The photography must be HIDDEN. That is, the moment you bring out your camera in full view, none of it applies.

2) The hidden photograpy must take place without permission from the subject(s)

3) The act must take place in an environment where the subject(s) have a reasonable right to expect privacy. That is, indoors in ones own home, inside a dressing room, in a restroom or similar environments.

This law is meant to complement laws against harassment, where the law is interpreted such that you cannot claim to be harassed in cases where you didn’t realize AT THE TIME that you were being photographed.

That particular loophole, if you will, led to extensive debate here in Sweden a while back, after a couple of public cases were tried and the accused was acquitted of harassment after having secretly videotaped his tenant in her bathroom using a hidden camera. He was on the other hand convicted of violating the privacy of her home by entering without permission in order to install the hidden camera.

Under this new law he would be convicted of unlawful harassing photography since the law’s three requisites would have been fulfilled.

There are also two excemptions to the law:

1) regarding law enforcement use of hidden photography; that is you can still be subject to being spied on if you’re a reasonable suspect of a crime.

2) reasonable use. If it can be shown after the fact that the photography was justifiable, for example to gather evidence or for a photo journalist to document something of public interest, the law doesn’t apply.

So, in summary, although fears have been raised by free speech activists and others (me included), the law actually does seem to be well written and sufficiently narrow in scope to not hinder everyday use of photography.

Niall (profile) says:

Re: Some clarification

That’s ok then, no-one will abuse it at all, just like the Patriot Act. No-one secretly filmed as evidence of wrongdoing will use this law to SLAPP or sue anyone. No siree!

Wouldn’t it have made more sense to ‘fix’ the harrassment laws rather than make up new ones that will potentially criminalise ordinary behaviour?

Benny L (profile) says:

Re: Re: Some clarification

So what would happen if the harassment law was amended such that you could sue for harassment even if you didn’t know you were being harassed? How could that possibly work? (And note here that there are different laws for harassment and libel.) Anybody who disliked someone could claim to have been harassed for just about anything thought up after the fact.

Also, did you even read my coment properly? The risk of “criminalising ordinary behaviour” is just about nonexistent.

Benny L (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Well, the photo may not have been innocuous but still be justified. Let’s say for example (I just made this one up) that a public figure denies knowing a particular organized crime boss. Then some investigative reporter photographs them both in bed together using a telephoto lens from across the street. That act would normally be a violation of the new law (and here intent matters – if your intention was to capture the building because you’re interested in architecture it’s not a violation but if your sole purpose was to catch them in the act you are), but since it can be deemed of public interest the photographer is not in violation of the law (but the publisher faces the risk of a libel law suit if he publishes, but that’s another matter of course).

It is still troublesome that it is the very ACT of photographing that is criminalised, not what they are later used for, which means that the photographer must be more aware when shooting – perhaps with little time to consider – rather than being able to contemplate the picture afterwards.

Benny L (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Normally that is the case here in Sweden too, which is one reason why this law has been hotly debated before it was passed in the Riksdagen (the Parliament). In fact, you can normally do whatever you like with the pictures you own, with no permissions required from people in the photo, the theory being that it is the photographer who owns the rights to the image, not the people in the picture. (Although you can be subject to libel suits if the photo subjects are portrayed negatively, and you are generally not allowed to use photographs without model releases in advertising.)

wireless camera (user link) says:

Wireless cameras

IP CAMERA Plug & Play


The new IP camera Plug & Play provides excellent vision both day and night up to 8-10 meters. Innovative and resistant, it can be connected to the LAN and to the Internet via a router, and allows viewing and control of the area of interest in real time and by remote via PC, tablet (Windows XP/Vista/7), smartphones (UMTS/3G with applications Android and iPhone).

IP Camera is a new generation product which, thanks to its “Plug and Play” function, doesn’t require any special configuration to insert it into existing data network (router/fixed IP /NAT/DDNS). The installation is quick and easy, in fact, it’s enough enter your login information reported under the camera to start the video surveillance of your places, from PC or smartphone, using the appropriate software.

The IPCAM basic function is transmit remote video on the IP network; the video quality is at high resolution “720p HD” and can be transmitted with 30fps speed and resolution (1024 x 720) on the LAN/WAN using hardware compression with H.264 technology.

The IP camera is based on the standard TCP/IP: an internal web server that supports Internet Explorer. The installation/configuration software included in a CD, allows you to configure the IP camera in few seconds simply by scanning the QR code with your smartphone (Plug and Play function).


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