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Yesterday I was in a public space. Someone showed up, and without any reasons took my photo.’ If you do a google search, you will find a shocking search result related to this privacy issue.


If you accept the situation and do not react at all, it may be considered as a silent consent. If you start questioning the person you may find yourself in an uncomfortable position of creating an issue for ‘nothing’.

You can politely ask the person to delete your photo from his/her mobile, but currently you don’t have any tech/legal ways to enforce your will. (Please note: Im not talking here about celebrities/famous people/special life situations, only about general people in general life situations)

While I didnt found any credible statistics about this issue, you can imagine how many incident escalating to real physical violence worldwide each year because of unauthorized pictures.

It is also possible in certain life situations that you became ‘suspicious’ and people around you may start asking you: Why are you afraid of a picture, do you have anything to hide?

If you fall into this category, I have a unique suggestion for you voiced by Bruce Schneier, is a security researcher, who wrote in 2006 an interesting piece about the importance of personal privacy: Click here for The Eternal Value of Privacy

“If you aren’t doing anything wrong, what do you have to hide?”

There is something fundamentally interesting with this attitude. While it will put you to the defense position to protect your own personality and visual identity, in the same time its taking away attention from the real issue: e.g. somebody took a picture of you without your consent. (diversion: attention diversion is a form of social control, it is a manipulative communication technique. If you want to know more about it, check this article: How to spot classic diversionary tactics)

As Bruce Schneier points out, there are several answers for this question:

  • If im not doing anything wrong, then you have no cause to take a picture of me

  • Because there is a possibility you might do something wrong with that visual information now or anytime in the foreseeable future.

  • Because laws are constantly changing everywhere, what is good or bad may change in a a short period of time. Today’s innocent pictures in a party with someone who you barely know, can make you uncomfortable tomorrow.

When someone is taking a picture of you without your consent, this is already a significant red flag about that person: he/she is not respecting other people’s fundamental right to privacy. Does he deserve the same fate?

If it is a foreigner person, and you know the country of origin of this person, you can guess about this behaviour to draw a conclusion from that knowledge. Is it only a cultural difference or the person behaviour also not accepted in his own home country?

Commons:Country specific consent requirements source: Wikimedia (19/10/2018)


Every day over 200 million photos uploaded to Facebook and 1.2 billion photos to Google Photos. InfoTrends even estimated that we took a collective 1.2 trillion photos in 2017.

Did you know, in today’s world, when virtually everyone has a camera in his pocket, one picture can make a difference on someone’s life?

Why should I care about my pictures?

Well, there are thousands of different answers for this question. Im going to put some real life cases here to show you just the tip of the iceberg. Each country has their own specific social environment, therefore the cases and its consequences are very different worldwide.

One single picture and a facebook profile ruined someone’s life in a well documented way (back in 2009!!!). Click the BBC link and The Star to read the case of Neda Sultani: The media mix-up that ruined my life. Even there is a book about it on Amazon: My Stolen Face by Neda Sultani, where you can read her life story in details.

Here is another interesting article from Ireland in 2014: If you take photos of people without their knowledge, you’re being a creep. (source, 19/10/2018) Cultural dimensions are also in question, this is from the US: Did you know a Photo Can Ruin Your Life?

Of course an authorized picture could be also a powerful tool for the better. For a positive example, please check this: 'Sometimes a photo can change someone's life'

“It is impossible not to communicate, because when you are not communicating, its also a part of the communication.”

If I translate this to the language of visual appearence, I can say a picture says a thousand technical and non technical details about its own context. For example, have you ever thought what your Instagram pictures are telling about you for harvard psychologists? (source: Independent,19/10/2018)

How to react when someone takes unauthorized pictures about you?

While it looks like an offensive behaviour for the first sight, it can be also just a way how less sophisticated people see things differently in different cultures.

Linda Henkel, a psychology professor at Fairfield University did a research where she suggested that taking photos can actually impair your ability to recall details of the event later on.(source: BBC Are You Taking Too Many Pictures? 19/10/2018)

Of course there is a possibility for questioning the person. Depend on the environment of the incident, you can report the person to authorities for suspicious behaviour and for further inspection. In this case, if anything happens later, there will be a written report of the incident. (yeah, i know…)

You should also note, people who use smart phones increasingly tend to log their life through pictures. There are many examples worldwide about court processes followed by unauthorised photography, consequences are really depend on the states where you live in.

Qui Prodest?

In my opinion the person who doesn’t respect other people privacy are tend to be the person using personal information as a weapon. Over the situation he/she is trying to take some form of advantage/cause disadvantage, or maybe just annoy you.

Your Life: Your Privacy Matter

Privacy is a fundamental human right, even in the age of social media. It is recognized by the United Nations, the EU (GDPR) and other international treaties.

Did you know?

In 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed this right to privacy in Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.” (source, 20/10/2018) If you are interested to know more about where did the right to privacy come from, click here for a nice summary.

According to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louise Brandeis, Privacy is “the right to be let alone”.

Why your privacy is so important?

According to “privacy helps individuals maintain their autonomy and individuality. People define themselves by exercising power over information about themselves and a free country does not ask people to answer for the choices they make about what information is shared and what is held close. At the same time, this does not mean that public policy should shield people from the costs of their choices. American privacy allows our many cultures and subcultures to define for themselves how personal information moves in the economy and society.

A second reason that privacy is important is because of its functional benefits. This area has been especially slippery for policy-makers because they have often use the term “privacy” to refer to one or more of privacy’s benefits.

For example, anonymity and pseudonymity protect the privacy of people’s identities, which has the functional benefit that someone may speak at a political rally — or go to a bar — and not have to answer later to political opponents or unwanted suitors. Anonymity and pseudonymity lend to both privacy and these safeguards for safety and peace of mind.” (source, 20/10/2018)

Your privacy protection is: crime control and prevention.

We have to note here, there is a big difference between suspicious individuals taking pictures of you for unknown reason, or authorities within legal frameworks are collecting information against criminal activities.

Privacy should protect your fundamental human rights (e.g. from strangers), but not protect you from the cost of unlawful personal choices. (e.g. crime)

Your personal picture is personal data, and according to Schneier “data is a toxic asset”, theft of personal information is nothing unusual. Large tech companies are losing their large number of customers personal data on weekly basis. If corporations with an army of highly trained security experts are unable to protect their infrastructure, do you think your personal tools are good enough to do the same for you?

Here is an interesting study from the Harvard Business Review: How Being Filmed Changes Employee Behaviour, and another: Human behavior: How it changes when knowingly being observed?, and one by marketwatch: do we live under constant surveillance?

We need a new consensus to take the notion of privacy seriously worldwide.

Without personal privacy we does not exist in our current human form. In the age of personal data gathering apps and social media, people tend to think their privacy doesn’t matter anymore. It is not true.

Your privacy today is more important, then anytime in known human history. You have to defend it, until you have at least something to defend yet. (Are you still think your privacy is not important for you? Check this interesting tedx video.)

“Those who do not move, do not notice their chains.”

Rosa Luxemburg

Thanks for reading this.

What is your opinion on this? Do you want to have a right to protect your visual appearence from strangers? Whats your solution if someone is taking a picture of you in public space without your consent?


Update, 26/10/2018:

Originally I planned to finish my article here. The SAP blog network administrator first accepted my article to go live, then 34 readers later they pulled it back, and requested me to add an extra layer to this story, which contains SAP related material. While I believe my article is deeply connected to SAP, here is my extra layer as requested.

SAP Face recognition and privacy questions

Personal privacy is a concern all around the world now. So, I would like take another example for photo/data protection, face recognition and current privacy questions related to SAP.

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) have been put into effect in 25th of May, 2018. Advanced data protection and privacy capabilities are already deeply integrated into different SAP products and services. (For example Did you know SAP Adds Advanced Data Protection and Privacy Features to the SAP HCM Suite?)

According to Washington Post, last week Google announced new privacy restrictions that put limits on how developers can use Gmail data. (source: 26/10/2018)

As you can learn from this current Google story, small privacy change for an SAP solution may lead to big changes for SAP customers worldwide. Therefore it is an interesting question to know, how SAP is managing different types of privacy issues. I believe by enhancing existing product features and adding new capabilities, SAP supports proper handling of internal and external data sources.

Just in short, SAP privacy solutions contains:

  • Consent management

  • Data blocking

  • Data purging

  • Data info reporting

(If you are interested, here is an article to read more in depth about it. Source, 26/10/2018)

So, whats the connection with my current story about single pictures made by strangers and SAP?

SAP is building its own face recognition technology. (source, 26/10/2018) As you may already know personal data could be used to implicate conclusions about your personality, your background and your future. It is no difference with your personal pictures.

No matter how you think about facial recognition technology, we already know this technology is far from being perfect.

Research studies have found these recognition systems often have algorithmic preconceptions. Cynthia Wong wrote an interesting piece recently about how we underestimate the threat of facial recognition technology. (source, 26/10/2018). Another interesting story from this summer, a Forbes journalist recently built a powerful Amazon facial recognition tool under 10$.

Did you know how your linkedin exposes you to facial recognition hacks? source, 26/10/2018), Is facial recognition a threat on Facebook and Google? (26/10/2018)

The technology is here and will stay with us. The next generation face recognition solutions will use artificial intelligence to know more about your IQ, personal interests, worldviews and sexual orientation. 

It is changing our life in unpredictable and unexpected ways in the foreseeable future, therefore i believe it is a good idea to talk about it here in the SAP blog network as well. Please note, im here not to cause trouble, but to learn more from SAP professionals.

What is your opinion on this?

Do you want to have a right to protect your visual appearence from strangers and corporate AI facial recognition technology? Whats your solution if someone is taking a picture of you in public space without your consent?Do you know more about SAP face recognition development?

Please share your current thoughts and ideas here! Thank you for reading this.

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