Reading time: 6min.

by Natalie Bannerman

Strangers in the night – privacy in public

I myself have witnessed the rather typical and gross nature of groups of pre pubescent boys on public transport, not all boys of course but sadly the majority rules. Somehow the crowded buses & trains coupled with tired/sleepy strangers is cue for them to act as obnoxious as possible. Usually exclamations of the words ‘bruv’, ‘bro’ and ‘blud’ are the customary terms of affection shown. Generally with vacuous stories of their college/uni/job’s/friends/drugs (generally weed)/money are told in the loudest voices, intermittent with choruses of roaring laughter in an effort to intimidate or show off.

One thing for definite however is the non stop talk of women/sex/genitalia/body shapes and sizes, usually commenting on someone who is on said bus or train who is attractive and is singled out & heckled. I have even seen them whip out their phone and sneakily take photos of women’s asses and boobs without them even knowing it!

So it comes as no surprise to me that a 2013 survey by Nokia revealed that “More than eight per cent of UK adults have photographed attractive strangers on public transport, in the park, in a coffee shop and even in the doctor’s surgery,”

Gone are the days when you could just be on your merry old way without fear of someone catching it on film. These days I’m afraid to fall over in public for fear of it ending up on YouTube! Of course it has its benefits the recent race incidents that we’ve all been watching unfold in the US, highlight the importance of mobile technology chiefly concerning incidents involving police and other miscellaneous moments that might have otherwise gone unreported.

Questions of privacy and the moral implications of taking photos without someone’s knowledge or consent are a real issue. Are sites like Tube Crush, morally acceptable? Tube Crush being a site that allows people to post some of those sneakily taken photos of the person they find attractive on public transport. It advertises itself as “where your chance encounter from the tube line can be shared on-line.” Its a lawsuit waiting to happen if you ask me! Cleverly however sites like these only allow for men’s pics and also very conveniently has a photo removal request page in case said person wants it taken down. But does that resolve the problem? We all know that once something hits the internet although the original can be taken down, you’re pretty much already all over the world wide web through sharing and therefore likely to be there permanently.

What do people do with those photos? Well that’s the real issue for me, while there those who are probably innocently swooning over their little bus stop crush, its the creepy pervs and cougars alike and their less than savoury thoughts that raise the red flag for me. What about the safety implications? We all have haters, we all have enemies and posting photos like these could indicate a persons travel movements or area of address. I’m sure acts of revenge and retribution have been conducted on far less information in the past!

Not to mention the future evolution of such interactions, should such lines also be breached and child photos be passed around and posted, if not happening already.

Censorship as whole on the internet is sternly frowned upon because of its restrictions on the individual, creative and freedom of speech who could forget the 2011 internet blackout in protest over the proposed SOAPA act however in words of Mr Carter “that’s why the Internet is like the wild west. We need to write the new rules for what’s going on right now.”

Conversely as you are willingly putting yourself out in a public place, are you then not forfeiting your rights to privacy at that given moment? Some would argue if you don’t want your picture taken don’t leave your house. Celebrities for years have been fighting the issue of privacy and have yet to win that battle, why should you or I be any different. Not to mention it ruins the fun for those who are genuinely having fun with it.

All I know is I hope to GOD my face isn’t floating around out there on some random’s phone.

But wait … wouldn’t that mean I’m not attractive …?