While at a local pub, I noticed a lady with a cell phone camera taking covert pictures of me without my expressed permission. I asked the lady to stop and to give me a copy of any and all pictures of me and to destroy all copies in her phone's memory. I asked twice on two different occasions and so far have been denied. What, if anything, can I do to obtain the unwanted pictures?

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    \$\begingroup\$ What country are you asking about? it differs between where you are. \$\endgroup\$
    – thebtm
    Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 19:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ You'd probably have more success requesting that she deletes the photos without requesting a copy for yourself. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 8:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Everyone engaged in a comment-based discussion has sufficient reputation to use the site's chat room instead. Please do so. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joanne C
    Commented Jan 6, 2017 at 3:36

8 Answers 8


While at a local pub I noticed a lady with a cell phone camera taking covert pictures of me with out my expressed permission,

Covert ? Really ?

If it was "covert" how can you know she was taking your photo and not a photo of something or someone around you ( or the room in general ) ? Phones typically don't have much zoom capability so unless she pointed at you close up, it probably wasn't you she was photographing and if she did that it wasn't covert.

I think you're making too much of that.

I asked the to stop and to give me a copy of any and all pictures of me and to destroy all copies in her phones memory.

And she probably thought you were crazy for doing so. She may even have no idea you were in the field of the photo ( and you may not have been ).

It's unrealistic to expect to sit in a bar or restaurant ( or stand in public ) and not be photographed either by accident or design. It's such a normal thing to see people holding up phones and taking photos and video now that it's become utterly pointless for anyone to try it in secret.

You need to learn to expect to be photographed and videoed as a normal thing.

I asked twice on two different occasions and so far have been denied. What if anything can I do to obtain the unwanted pictures ?

Nothing practical.

Frankly even if you have the legal right to do this ( wherever you live ), I would be astonished if a court or the police would not regard you as a time waster for such a thing.

Even if you try and delete a file from a memory card, normal deletion and even formatting processes don't actually erase the data - it can generally be recovered. So deleting it would be pointless.

Asking for a copy would, unless I'm mistaken, make her a legitimate photographer of an image and entitled to keep one for herself. So getting a copy would be counter-productive. Either you don't want to be photographed or you're happy to be photographed - you can't have it both ways.

What you can do is adapt to living in a world where people photographing you and videoing you by accident ( or deliberately ) is the norm, because that's the world you live in.

In your own home you'd be on safer ground legally. But in many countries it's perfectly legal to photograph someone in their own home once the photographer is not there (with a long focal length). In general your right to privacy is governed by how privately you are acting. Doing something in a pub is not somewhere you can easily claim a right to privacy.

Where you'd be on safe ground would be if they used the photos for commercial purposes without your permission or to libel you ( although libel isn't as straightforward as people think ).

So I think you need to learn to let these things go.

Probably not what you want to hear, but practical advice.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "Asking for a copy would, unless I'm mistaken, make her a legitimate photographer of an image and entitled to keep one for herself." I've never heard of such a thing. What even is a "legitimate photographer"? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 23:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ In the sense that by accepting a copy of the image you are, in a sense, placing her in the role of "your" photographer. "Legitimate" in the sense of not being unwanted, as you can't simultaneously want the photo and not want the photographer. Perhaps I've spent too much time listening to legal arguments, but asking for the photo is potentially creating a contract ( a tort ). Asking for deletion ( but not a copy ) is different. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 23:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Asking for the photo certainly wouldn't create a contract under English law, since there is no consideration: the woman with the phone is giving you something but you're not giving anything back. Other jurisdictions, of course, may have different ideas about what is or is not a contract but I'm mentioning English law because I'm familiar with it and because it shows that the things you're claiming may be true in some places but aren't true everywhere. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 23:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ However the woman might be entitled to seek a consideration in return for the copy, and would surely be entitled to deny a copy if she didn't get such a consideration. Asking for a copy just opens up too many complexities to be worth doing. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 23:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ Worth noting, in the USA, cops regularly get in trouble for doing what you want to do. Even the police don't have the rights to do what you describe except in very specific circumstances. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 3:15

Legal rights seem to vary strongly from country to country.

For example:

  • USA: Allowed to publish the photo even
  • UK: Court will decide between a balance of the right of privacy and the right of freedom of expression when publishing
  • France: Allowed to publish the photo even
  • Germany: Needs consent from all people in the photo if you want to share the photo with a third party if the photo can do significant damage
  • Hungary: Need consent from all people in the shot even if the photo isn't published
  • Belgium: Allowed in general, except if it would significantly harm that person

Source: Derived from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Street_photography#Legal_concerns

Either way, in no case would you have a legal right to a copy of the photo. At best you can probably prevent the photo from being published or maybe from the photo being shared with a third party, but that's about it. Point in case: Don't do things in public you don't want to be public.

In some countries you could derive additional rights from the fact that a cafe is a semi-public place, where often the houserules of the establishment matter. Whilst researching for this answer I wasn't able however to find a good clear overview of those laws, so I used the above source which is about explicitly public places. In most - though not all cases - it will be the same.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The Wikipedia page you link to is about photography in public places. The photographs in question were taken in a pub which, despite the name, is not a public place: rather, it is a private place to which the public is admitted. I believe that, in both the UK and the USA, the landowner or business owner can choose whether photography is permitted on their premises. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 23:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DavidRicherby True, but that wouldn't convey onto him any right to copies of the photos or to have them destroyed. It would just make the photographer in violation of the owner's rules and the owner could kick them out. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 23:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ You may be reading too much in that Wikipedia page. For example in the case of France there is absolutely no universal right to publish. The fact that the pictures were taken for artistic purposes is crucial in the cited case, and on the other hand the paparazzi press is routinely ordered to pay substantial damages to people whose photographs they publish. It's not at all clear where on the "artistic vs. paparazzi" spectrum the pictures in this case would fall. \$\endgroup\$
    – user29608
    Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 9:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DavidRicherby I think that you are wrong. Just as a UK landlord has to serve all members of the public who are behaving lawfully, and can’t discriminate to suit himself, because it is a public place, so he must allow publicly permissible activity in that public place, unless it is interfering with his livelihood. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mawg
    Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 10:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mawg If it were a public place, he landlord wouldn't be able to require everybody to leave at the end of the day. The owner of private premises is perfectly able to make reasonable restrictions (such as "no photography") as long as they are not discriminatory (such as "no photography by women"). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 16:38

In Canada for example, photos in all areas that are public area is fair game as long as the photos are not being used for commercial use. If you are in a private area that is opened to the public, photos also fall under the fair game sense. the only time photos that are not allowed is when your in a private area that has already been stated your not allowed to take photos without permission. Also forcing someone to delete photos can cause you to get charged with Destruction of Property.

If someone wants to use photos in Canada for commercial use, a model release form has to be filled out with the person (people) in the photo.

Also, the photographer doesn't have to share the photos with you. Now most photographers that I know, that if you ask nicely about seeing / getting a copy of the photos, will try to work with you about it.

An quote from Public Photography is No Crime

Subject to certain very limited constraints, it is not a crime in Canada for anyone to do any of the following things, and it is a violation of their Charter rights to prevent anyone from doing so:

  • photographing or filming in any public place, or in any private place to which the public is admitted, and publishing those pictures and films,
  • taking pictures of or filming in any government site other than “restricted access areas”*
  • photographing or filming police officers in public, as long as the photographer/filmmaker does not obstruct or interfere with the execution of police duties. While everyone has a reasonable expectation of privacy in certain circumstances, police officers have no reasonable expectation of privacy as they go about their duties.

A police officer does not have the right to confiscate cameras or recording equipment (including phones), unless the person in possession of such equipment is under arrest and such equipment is necessarily relevant to the alleged offence. A police officer cannot force anyone to show, unlock or decrypt cameras or recording equipment, or to delete images, even when that person is under arrest, unless the police officer has a warrant or a court order permitting him to do so.

At no time, and under no circumstances, is anyone in Canada subject to arrest for the simple act of taking a photograph or filming, although he or she can be arrested if he or she is breaking another law in the process, such as, for example, trespassing or breaking or entering.

Other laws and legislation, including the Criminal Code, the Copyright Act, the Security of Information Act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), must be obeyed while taking or publishing pictures.

The page has a section for the US but I will focus on Canada as I am from Canada and do my photography in Canada.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I've done some research on public photography in the UK and it's pretty much the same. There's a difference though in that, on publicly-accessible private property, the property owner or a representative thereof can request that you stop taking photos and delete any photos that you've taken. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 8:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ The same is true in the UK, where the OP may well be, since he mentions a "local pub". A public house is a public place, giving no reasonable expectation of privacy. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mawg
    Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 10:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ The model release actually has little to do with commercial vs. non-commmercial use of the photo, and isn't strictly speaking necessary at all. It is really an agreement between model and photographer to prevent lawsuits. Not much different from any other contract. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 11:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not directly related to the question, but in many countries you may not be allowed to take pictures in public spaces if copyrighted works are in the picture. Buildings are copyrighted (by the architect) so you might be able to take a picture of the river Thames, but maybe not of the London Eye! In practical terms it may not always be enforceable, but I recall that there were some lawsuits in several different places. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 11:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mawg, IANAL but I think there can be a difference between a public place and private property that has public access. Despite its name, a public house is private property. \$\endgroup\$
    – osullic
    Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 15:28

Whether, and to what extent, the photographer has the right to use photos with identifiable people in them, without the agreement of those people, varies substantially around the world, as other answers and comments have covered.

However, the question doesn't ask that. The question asks:

I asked the to stop and to give me a copy of any and all pictures of me and to destroy all copies in her phones memory. I asked twice on two different occasions and so far have been denied. What if anything can I do to obtain the unwanted pictures?

And to that the answer is simpler. To the best of my knowledge, you have no right to do that, anywhere in the world.

You could ask to see the photos on her phone, but it would be allowable and reasonable for her to refuse. You could remind her that using photos of you without your permission is a violation of your rights, to the extent that's true where you are. In a particularly strict jurisdiction it may be that the photographer has no legal choice but to delete the photo. But nothing gives you the right to obtain the photos; if that happened it would be at the photographer's own choice, and you're unlikely to corner her into wanting to give them to you.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I wanted to answer this question, but as it was locked....*sad face* You hit it on the head, an individual cannot force an individual to delete stuff on their personal devices, anywhere. If OP is in the USA, this falls under expectation of privacy. If OP were in their own home, they could have a quite reasonable expectation of privacy. But when you leave your home, that goes out the window. Red Light cameras, CCTV monitoring by law enforcement, etc. The thing we have to remember these days, is we are all on some camera, somewhere sometime. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 7, 2017 at 4:45

In Australia you need the land-owner or tenant's permission to take a photo. If you are on public land you are permitted to take a photo. "Public", by definition, means not private, so if you are the subject of a photo on public land, you cannot argue for privacy. However photographers have been charged with public nuisance for disturbing others - this is the usual recourse for people being photographed unwantedly.

In your case it's in a pub. If it were here you could ask the pub licensee whether the woman has permission to take photographs in the pub. If she does, there's not much you can do, although you can argue the pub should have informed you that your photo might be taken while on their premises - and they probably did, if they have security cameras operating then they probably have signs warning same. You could advise the pub that you did not attend in order to be photographed (and/or harrassed - if you feel it was harrassment) and you will take your patronage elsewhere.

If you suspect her actions are criminal in nature then report them to the police.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Almost every restaurant or similar place allows photographs now. Photos of their food and of people eating/drinking there on Facebook, Yelp, and Twitter drive their business. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 23:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that harrassment is a repeated course of action. You can't harrass somebody by annoying them once. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 23:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @youcantryreachingme Just because the operator of the venue may restrict photography on the premises does not mean a random patron can do so. Also, the fact that the owner has a legal right to restrict photography does not necessarily place a burden on the photographer to ask first. I'm not sure about Australian law, but in U.S. law the burden would be on the owner to give notice of the restriction, not on the photographer to request permission. I suspect Australian law is similar, though. \$\endgroup\$
    – reirab
    Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 5:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ From your link: "What if you take photos of a private space, publish them, and are then contacted (threatened?) by the property owner, claiming you have no right to display or sell images of their land? Frankly, ignore them. They may be able to restrict you while the photos are being taken, but they cannot do anything once the images have been captured." So, the answer to this question for Australia appears to be essentially "There's nothing at all you can do about it." Even if the photos were taken in violation of the owner's rules, there's still nothing you can do about it. \$\endgroup\$
    – reirab
    Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 5:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ No, there is no recourse whatsoever for a landowner to demand that photographs taken on their property be destroyed. (If you disagree, please cite actual legislation or case law.) Landowners can implement whatever rules they want for what people can do on their land, but can only enforce them by asking people refusing to follow those rules to leave. Just as some venues ban photography, others ban the wearing of sleaveless tops, or sneakers. A venue owner has no more right to demand that a photographer destroy their photographs than they do to demand another patron destroy their sneakers. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 5:57

I think this question needs a more direct and concise answer than existing answers are:

Can I make a woman who took a picture of me in a pub give the image to me and delete all other copies?

No you cannot.

What if anything can I do to obtain the unwanted pictures?

Nothing other than ask politely - you have no legal rights to those photos.

As others have noted

  • It is legal to take pictures of anything in public places.
  • A pub is a private space to which the public have access but you have no reasonable expectation of privacy in a pub. Note that pub is short for "public house".
  • There are restrictions on publishing photos, but these do not affect people's rights to make photographs.
  • If you feel the woman was harrassing you or committing some sort of crime, you can either complain to the pub owner and ask for her to be ejected or you can report a crime to the police. From your description it doesn't seem that calling the police could be justified.

I believe the above applies in most (if not all) of the Anglosphere - but this is not law.stackexchange.com. The use of the phrase "cell phone" suggests the pub is probably in the USA. I am reasonably confident what I have written applies there. I am not a lawyer, if you seek legal advice, it would be necessary to consult one.


This is a matter of opinion. But I would absolutely ask the shooter to delete the photo, and expect her to show you that she deleted it, AS A MATTER OF COMMON DECENCY and wanting to avoid an altercation.

I was a press photographer for years, and I would never take a photo without someone's permission, unless they were making news (such as carrying a protest sign) in a public place. Drinking in a pub is not making news and it's not unreasonable to expect that you won't be recorded. Especially because cellphones let you do more than take photos, the shooter could have recorded video, with sound, and may intend to post it on social media as part of their money-making business.

People who want to get all "I have the right to shoot whatever I want" are missing the point, IMHO. You have to have a VERY good reason for taking someone's photo in place like a pub and and asserting that you don't give a damn what they think or want.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This assumes that the photo actually is exclusively or primarily of the OP. What's to say it is, rather than of the woman's friend with the pub as backdrop, or just a general "I'm at the pub, look how crowded/empty it is"? Even something like my Canon EF 70-200/4L has internal zoom, so you can't tell by looking at it whether I'm shooting at 70 mm, 200 mm or something in between (and that's deliberately ignoring the crop factor). I'm not aware of any cell phone camera that has a lens that changes visibly when zooming, and would honestly be surprised if they exist. \$\endgroup\$
    – user
    Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 19:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ I was an event photographer and ran into fellows like the OP on a regular basis since bars/clubs usually hired me.....usually they were cheating, paranoid, ultra low self-esteem, or violating some religious rule of their culture(drinking is ok long as I don't get caught!), embarrassing, etc. I always deleted them but viewed these fellows as a bit odd... \$\endgroup\$
    – deek
    Commented Jan 6, 2017 at 0:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Absolutely agree that this is a PITA if you are a photographer, and my answer ignores legal rights. But it's important today for photogs to realize people can object to feeling they are under surveillance. A reasonable person should comply with a request to delete an image -- or show that the person is not really visible (a quick look at a preview to prove it's not a closeup of you kissing your mistress). \$\endgroup\$
    – user8356
    Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 15:49

The biggest problems here are:

  • You don't have any proofs that the pictures were indeed taken, she could just use the camera as a tool to zoom in something she doesn't see clear with naked eye (for example I used that technique sometimes, because of vision problems)

  • Even if the previous point is somehow "solved", you don't have any way to ensure photos were deleted instead of just being hidden (optionally with some fake on-screen messages like they were deleted). Even if they are "truly deleted", it's usually possible to recover them, because typical flash memory controllers are programmed to evenly distribute writes so that the memory chip's rewrite cycles will be spent more uniformly (search "wear leveling"). So, unless you steal or destroy the camera's storage (or the entire camera with all memory), chances are the photos are not really deleted. And doing this is illegal and also will bring you bigger problems.

These facts are purely technical/logical, they are unlikely to change anytime soon. Unless everybody start using some TiVoized devices which are made to not obey their user's commands, making above tactics very hard to pull off.


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