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Thursday, May 19, 2022
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Picture This: Politician Can't Complain When in the Public Eye

Adelbert Bryan doesn’t like having his picture taken. The reason isn’t important – he doesn’t like having his picture taken and has no trouble telling reporters not to take his picture.

The problem is, he’s not just a private citizen. He’s a public official holding a public office. No one made him run. He sought and was elected to the Board of Elections without being forced. Like it or not, he’s in the public eye. But his aversion to being photographed led to a contentious scene at a recent Board of Elections meeting that brought the meeting to an abrupt halt and nearly led to violence.

We all value our privacy, and in the 21st century have plenty of reasons to worry when it’s invaded by computer hackers or companies "mining data" from our online activities. Even our phones have GPS devices telling the phone company where we are and what we’re doing, and god only knows what they do with the information. It’s a tradeoff we make every day, whether we know it or not, accepting the convenience of a smartphone while letting unknown others look over our shoulders.

But that’s not like this case. This is really very simple. You have an unlimited, absolute right to privacy – within your own home. No one, not even the police, can come in without your permission or a warrant. If a reporter peeked through your window and started snapping pictures of you, you’d have every right to call the cops and have the photog arrested.

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But once you open the door, that right becomes attenuated, a little thinner with every step you take. Even if you’re just standing on your front porch, your expectation of privacy has diminished. Anyone walking by can see you, and can legally take a picture of you standing there.

The farther you go into public the more you cede that right. Walking down a street or in a park, anyone can see you. Anyone can take a picture. You have traded your anonomity for the public arena.

And when you run for office – when you actively go out and seek a chance to serve the public by getting elected to a public board – well, that pretty well finishes your chance of hiding.

Simply put – If you are a public official, doing your public duty at a public meeting being held in a public building, you have zero expectation of privacy. You may not want anyone to take your picture, but you have no legal right to object when someone does. And you certainly have no right to intimidate and threaten a photographer who’s only trying to do a job he is legally entitled to do.

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Adelbert Bryan doesn't like having his picture taken. The reason isn't important – he doesn't like having his picture taken and has no trouble telling reporters not to take his picture.

The problem is, he's not just a private citizen. He's a public official holding a public office. No one made him run. He sought and was elected to the Board of Elections without being forced. Like it or not, he's in the public eye. But his aversion to being photographed led to a contentious scene at a recent Board of Elections meeting that brought the meeting to an abrupt halt and nearly led to violence.

We all value our privacy, and in the 21st century have plenty of reasons to worry when it's invaded by computer hackers or companies "mining data" from our online activities. Even our phones have GPS devices telling the phone company where we are and what we're doing, and god only knows what they do with the information. It's a tradeoff we make every day, whether we know it or not, accepting the convenience of a smartphone while letting unknown others look over our shoulders.

But that's not like this case. This is really very simple. You have an unlimited, absolute right to privacy – within your own home. No one, not even the police, can come in without your permission or a warrant. If a reporter peeked through your window and started snapping pictures of you, you'd have every right to call the cops and have the photog arrested.

But once you open the door, that right becomes attenuated, a little thinner with every step you take. Even if you're just standing on your front porch, your expectation of privacy has diminished. Anyone walking by can see you, and can legally take a picture of you standing there.

The farther you go into public the more you cede that right. Walking down a street or in a park, anyone can see you. Anyone can take a picture. You have traded your anonomity for the public arena.

And when you run for office – when you actively go out and seek a chance to serve the public by getting elected to a public board – well, that pretty well finishes your chance of hiding.

Simply put – If you are a public official, doing your public duty at a public meeting being held in a public building, you have zero expectation of privacy. You may not want anyone to take your picture, but you have no legal right to object when someone does. And you certainly have no right to intimidate and threaten a photographer who's only trying to do a job he is legally entitled to do.