Appellate Court Says No Permission Needed to Tag Someone in a Photo

Appellate Court Says No Permission Needed to Tag Someone in a Photo


Yet another good find over at Internet Cases. I think it's going to officially be added to my RSS Reader. Excerpt below:

Mother sought appellate review of the lower court's order that awarded primary physical custody of her daughter to the child's father. The mother argued, among other things, that the court improperly considered Facebook photos showing her drinking. This was not good because her psychologist had testified that alcohol would have an adverse effect on the medication she was taking for bipolar disorder. (Seems like there's no shortage of cases involving drinkin'photos on social media.)

The court rejected the mother's assertion that the photos should not be considered as evidence. She argued that because Facebook allows anyone to post pictures and then "tag" or identify the people in the pictures, she never gave permission for the photographs to be published in this manner. The court held that "[t]here is nothing within the law that requires [one's] permission when someone takes a picture and posts it on a Facebook page. There is nothing that requires [one's] permission when she [is] "tagged" or identified as a person in those pictures."

Lalonde v. Lalonde, - S.W.3d -, 2011 WL 832465 (Ky. App., February 25, 2011)

Essentially, if a photo of you (or a client) is on a social media website, anyone can "tag" and identify you in the photo regardless if you want them to or not. I suppose it's rather akin to identifying someone in a photograph presented in evidence.  Regardless, it's important to be cognizant of your behavior in public with the prevalence of digital cameras today. Especially considering that most smartphones have cameras and and can upload to Facebook on the fly.

My concern about this ruling extends past allowing tagged photos of defendants as admissible evidence but rather the tagging of the geo-location data of a defendant. Sure, photos can provide damning evidence but the actual spatial location of someone at a specific point in time could prove to be even worse. Luckily, as I've noted before, you can disable this functionality on Facebook. I highly recommend everyone do so.  There's not too much you can do about other people tagging you in photos, but I would suggest turning all your privacy setting on Facebook to high, and being stringent in who you accept as friends on Facebook.

Keith Lee is a Law Clerk with an insurance defense litigation firm in Birmingham, AL, and a recent graduate of Birmingham School of Law. Keith is the author of the blog, An Associate's Mind.


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