Debating the Understandings of Privacy
Edited By Margherita Carucci
Privacy, photography, and the art defense: Sarah Parsons
Privacy, photography, and the art defense Sarah Parsons Abstract This article traces and analyzes fears about privacy that are generated by photography. When Eastman Kodak introduced their first handheld camera in 1884, they unwittingly ushered in a new era of public surveillance. In part, it was the new ubiquity of photographic technology that prompted Samuel Warren and Louis Brandeis to draft their now legendary Harvard Law Review article, ‘The Right to Privacyʼ (1890). Anxieties have hardly abated around questions of who takes photographs, for what purposes, and in what contexts they circulate. This article examines tensions between these privacy concerns and the use of photography for social activism or artistic expression. In early February 2009, Facebook quietly made a change to their terms of service stating that, even after a user had deleted their account, Facebook retained the rights to their content and could continue to circulate, display or otherwise use archived user information. After a blog post on The Consumerist website, major news outlets picked up the story and Facebook users started protest groups whose membership quickly numbered in the tens of thousands. Despite the huge commercial potential of the user information, including photographs, held in the Facebook archives, founder Mark Zuckerberg tried to quell the firestorm. He assured his users ‘in reality, we wouldn’t share your information in a way you wouldn’t wantʼ.1 Voicing the disbelief shared by many users, Sasha Frere-Jones, the pop critic and staff writer for The New Yorker deleted his account, writing ‘why...
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