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Can Someone Take My Photo Without Permission?

Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors.

These days, everyone is a photographer. It is easier than ever to whip out a smartphone from a purse or pocket to snap a picture of whatever a person wants to document. Whether it is close up or from a distance, a photo can quickly capture and preserve a moment in time, for better or worse.

All this picture taking leads many people to wonder about their privacy rights and when picture-taking crosses the line into a violation of privacy.

'My Neighbor Took My Picture'

Let's say one day you are out in your backyard minding your own business and you see your neighbor taking your picture from their upstairs window. Surely, you feel as though your privacy has been violated. But has your neighbor actually broken the law? Probably not.

If the neighbor taking the photos was on their own property, where they had a right to be, and if you were outside in public view, the neighbor likely didn't violate any privacy laws by snapping your photo.

This comes as a shock to many, especially because a photo can be taken from a long ways away, and perhaps without the subject's permission or knowledge.

When Does Taking a Photo Violate Privacy Rights?

In general, whether picture-taking violates a subject's privacy rights depends on the subject's reasonable expectation of privacy (REP). The more public a place is, the less REP a person has. For example, your REP at a park or on the street is very limited.

On the other hand, you can reasonably expect privacy when you are inside your own home or another private place. In some instances, you have an REP while inside of a public place, such as in a bathroom at a park.

Another way to look at it is from the photographer's point of view. It is generally permissible for people to take photographs at any public place or any private place that they own or rent. Being present on someone else's private property generally requires the property owner's consent to take photos.

With that said, if the photographer is taking photos for a purpose that violates the law — such as to harass or stalk — that's another story.

If you believe that your privacy rights have been violated, contact a personal injury attorney located near you who can help determine what recourse you may have.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified personal injury attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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