Canadian Newsman: We take privacy concerns seriously

Posted 11.18.10

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Earlier this year, two Aylmer parents drew our attention to a privacy question: We had published a group photo of students which included their children. While this is not unusual, these parents had, for reasons of privacy, asked their school not to allow their children to be photographed for public use without parental consent, especially during private events; the parents felt our photo was of a private event.

These parents felt betrayed in their wishes and shaken by the existence of the photo in public print. Without getting into details, which are more complex than I've described, the parents had every reason to feel poorly served.

All parents deserve the security and peace of mind they struggle to create in raising their families; their children have a right to an unencumbered, normal, outgoing, carefree childhood. We remain profoundly embarrassed for our role in shaking this peace within that family. I am a parent and grandparent; most of our staff are parents, many with young kids. We support these parents.

All the more because we are all losing privacy across our society. With social media, and thousands of kids posting the most personal information and photos of themselves on the Internet, with video everywhere, from cell phones to public scans, parents are rightly focused on privacy threats-from child predators to identity theft scams.

The surprising national uproar over the government's attempt to change the census -- presumably to pamper privacy 0- indicates how sensitive we are to privacy.

As for the media, much of the issue is still undecided.

Newspapers cannot publish photos without permission, that is clear in the law, but photos of public events, say the Santa Claus Parade, are legal, even if none of the hundreds of spectators lining Main Street have signed releases when we -- or television -- are putting the parade on record.

Should spectators at sporting events expect to sign releases before any photos of the game can be used? The courts so far have balanced responsibility of conveying information with that of protecting privacy.

What this means is that anyone whose photo appears in this newspaper against their wishes has every right to complain and explore legal redress. And we will go out of our way to accommodate no-photo wishes, once we know; we will ensure that our files do not retain offending photos.

Prevention is the best route. To that end the Bulletin is asking all of our schools to keep a list of parents making privacy requests and to pass those lists to us and to other media. Our photographers are instructed to determine if there is anyone who should not be photographed. The most effective way to ensure privacy - for any of us - is to be proactive, get on these lists, monitor social media if there are youths involved, and follow identity-protection measures suggested by banks and legal authorities. And call the Bulletin.

The media must accept and follow its privacy responsibilities, and so must every private person and family.

Copyright © 2010 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/11.10