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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  1. icon
    Vidiot (profile), 19 Jun 2013 @ 9:29am

    In the US, I've heard that the taking of pictures isn't the problem; it's when you try to use those images that you'll have problems if permissions haven't been granted.

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