Recently, I noticed a student taking a photo of me from her seat during class. I asked her while the class was working on groups if she indeed did do this and she confirmed, but downplayed her rationale but offered no real reason. I feel very uncomfortable with this as I did not give my consent and feel strongly I should have a voice in this action. I would never take a photo of any student without their permission/consent.

Did she behave break the law or etiquette?

  • In the reverse at least, student privacy laws may give them a right to not be photographed in your class. Feb 10 at 5:19
  • 5
    Where in the world did this happen?
    – henning
    Feb 10 at 6:50
  • 1
    While this apparently doesn’t apply here, something I have experienced often is students photographing the blackboard (after asking for permission).
    – Wrzlprmft
    Feb 10 at 8:27
  • I vtc'd pending the jurisdiction in question, although I'm surprised two mods edited the question - which was only about breaking the law - to add in etiquette after a legal answer had already been given. Feb 10 at 16:36

1 Answer 1


This depends on your local jurisdiction, of course, but typically she did not break the law. Once you are in a public place, your consent to being photographed isn't legally required anymore.

Typical example (New Zealand):

It is generally lawful to take photographs of people in public places without their consent. However, you must not film or take photos of people if they are in a place where they can expect privacy (such as a public changing area or toilet) and that person:

  • is naked, in underclothes, showering, toileting etc
  • is unaware of being filmed or photographed
  • has not given consent to be filmed or photographed.

You should not take photos of people if:

  • they are in a place where they would expect reasonable privacy and publication would be highly offensive to an objective and reasonable person
  • it has potential to stop other people's use and enjoyment of the same place
  • you have no legitimate reason for taking the film or photos.

However, you can take and/or publish photos or film of people where there is no expectation of privacy, such as a beach, shopping mall, park or other public place.

You are in a classroom, where there is probably no expectation of privacy (example for the US), so your student did not break the law. If you feel strongly about it, consider if you ever took photos at a tourist attraction, you could easily have taken a photo of someone in the background. If this were illegal, you would need to approach them and get their consent - something that is highly impractical.

That said: your local jurisdiction might have prohibitions against sharing the photo, even if it doesn't prohibit taking the photo. Example for Germany.

  • 4
    I think "you consent to being photographed" is slightly inaccurate, rather "your consent isn't legally required." Feb 10 at 5:19
  • 3
    It also depends on what she was planning to do with the photo. Several countries (at least in the EU, probably in more places - which country are you in?) additionally have something called 'portrait right' - even if you're allowed to take photos in public space, if the person is clearly identifiable, that person would still have the right to object to publication (including on the internet). This does not prohibit making photos in public spaces that would not get published, though.
    – MiG
    Feb 10 at 6:41
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    This really depends, as you say. In Germany, you have a "right to control pictures of you" (Recht am Bild), unless you are a public person. An instructor could probably demand to take down any pictures taken of them during class.
    – henning
    Feb 10 at 6:49
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    It's not clear whether a university classroom presents a public place. From the examples in the text, this term sounds limited to places where everybody is free to move anytime, e.g., a marketplace or a public sports field. In such places, there might be particular privacy-sensitive areas, such as toilets and changing areas. Feb 10 at 9:08
  • 2
    @Allure My concern also applies to public universities. Arguably, not every room in a public institution's facilties is a public place (my office is hopefully not). Feb 10 at 9:27

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