Right to privacy?

We’re organizing the FAM event for November and I’ve been slightly surprised at the fact that a few people have returned their forms indicating that they don’t wish to have their face in any photos or have their voice recorded.

Of course the right to privacy is key and in many ways what a huge part of access management is all about. And we should never assume consent. Apart from the fact that sometimes should we?

Your average public sector event is going to be attended by public sector employers, who I’m assuming will get their fares and accommodation paid for by their host institutions and they are certainly attending in an official capacity. So should we be able to say “no I don’t want my comments or questions recorded”?

Web casting is becoming more and more common – events in our field actively take into account that many more people will be actually participating than physically at the event. So is standing up for the rights of privacy doing anyone any good in this case?

There is a flip side to this – recording and broadcasting everything does make it harder to ask or make off the record comments and can inhibit frank discussion which is a key reason for events like our FAM one to take place.

I know the law on this one, but I’m not sure if I know the answer…..there is certainly a fight to be had over privacy which I’m happy to get behind but should public sector events be the battleground?

3 thoughts on “Right to privacy?

  1. Simon McLeish


    I can see your point, but wouldn’t the same argument apply to (say) the public revelation of the electronic journals I access, or the other web sites I use while officially carrying out my duties. The research is after all paid for with public money. But one of the fundamental concepts involved in FAM as we see it in the UK is the ability to anonymise access, so that not even the publisher knows who has accessed particular journal articles. So are you arguing that we shouldn’t be able to do anything anonymously?

    The dividing line, it seems to me, should fall between the recording and revelation of the data. After all, the public release of data makes it available for analysis by any third party, without my knowledge or further consent, and this is something one might well not want to happen.

    An additional, separate point, is that institutions seem to be becoming more keen to ensure that emails are accompanied by disclaimers that the sender is not speaking officially for the institution (in many cases, being added automatically so the employee has no choice to make an email “official” or “unofficial”). So perhaps being unwilling to be recorded is an extension of this requirement, and is not necessarily the personal preference of the individual. (Have you asked any of those who made the stipulation why they did so – I think their reasons might well be interesting.)

  2. Brian Kelly

    Hi Mark

    The approach we took at UKOLN’s recent Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW 2009) was to provide a Quiet Zone. We stated that “This area will also be appropriate for those who would like to avoid being filmed during the video streaming. Note that audience footage is likely to primarily consist of long shots except for when questions are being asked by delegates during the Q&A sessions.

    We request that participants do not take photographs of people who are located in the Quiet Area.

    We felt that this was a useful approach to bridging the tensions which you have highlighted in your post. Note that I am not saying that this is a perfect solution (I don’t think a perfect solution exists) but does demonstrate that the event organisers are aware of issues regarding privacy and have sought to address such issues.

  3. markwilliams

    Excellent work-around Brian, I like the sound of “The quiet zone”!

    Simon – yep instinctivly agree with some of that – but still feel an event is well “AN EVENT” and as such almost has “broadcast” as an implied subtext…

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