Do I have unreasonable privacy expectations?
March 21, 2010 2:57 PM   Subscribe

How annoyed should I be? (Photographer/videographer issue)

Family and I went out to dinner at the Slanted Door (at the Ferry Bldg in SF) last week after work. It was crowded, but the food and service were good.

The thing that ruined the meal for me was that they let in three people who proceeded to videotape inside the restaurant, including panning the diners. I found out after having raised an objection that the crew was from a culinary school and they were doing some sort of project. No notice was given, and they were focusing on specific tables (mine included).

I'm a private kind of person. I live in a touristy city and grudgingly put up with the cameras on the street, but I don't want to be videotaped inside a restaurant or whenever I can help it. I made my discomfort known to the server and the manager, both of whom were fairly dismissive of my (polite) protestations. By the time the manager came over the crew had left. I feel as if my privacy was violated: had there been a sign notifying diners that they would be filmed, we would have gone elsewhere.

I realize that there are cameras in some restaurants to deter theft or other crime; usually, however, there are notices to that effect. That sort of taping doesn't bother me, since it's unlikely that the video will be used. In this instance, however, it's extremely likely that the video will be used, since that was the point of the taping.

Am I acting unreasonably? Is there a right to privacy inside a restaurant that doesn't exist in the street? If so, is there any recommended followup, or do I just let it go and scratch Slanted Door off my list (easy to do since there are other great restaurants in the city)?
posted by aberrant to Society & Culture (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would write a polite letter to the manager letting them know how much it upset you and then no longer patronize their establishment.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 2:59 PM on March 21, 2010

I understand your annoyance! I've run into a few impromptu video taping/photo shoots in various Bay Area establishments and I think that it's very rude of them not to notify patrons that this sort of thing is going to be happening in the restaurant. I would write a letter to the management for sure.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 3:03 PM on March 21, 2010

For what its worth, I feel you. I work in an office with about a dozen people. Last week I went in and there were people filming the place (found out later it was for a promo something or other). They didn't come in my office, but I was on the phone and turned around that this guy has his video machine pointed at me from the hallway. I made myself unavailable by shutting the door. I was super annoyed for not having had notice or a choice, so I would have felt the same way you did in a restaurant. I'd write a review about the experience on a restaurant review site and not go back.
posted by letahl at 3:12 PM on March 21, 2010

I think the restaurant staff acted rudely, and should have handled this better. But our "reasonable expectations of privacy" will always be much greater in our own dining rooms than in those of any public restaurant. Part of going out in public means being seen by other people, some of whom will have cameras. A polite letter to the restaurant manager would at least let him or her know that you found the conduct upsetting and may take future business elsewhere as a result. Still, there's only one way to be certain that your images won't grace the background of a cheesy student film or go back to Norway in a tourist's camera: Stay home.
posted by applemeat at 3:17 PM on March 21, 2010

I recently ate lunch in a food court that had signs posted to the effect of "Attention customers: we will be filming for a commercial between 1:00 and 4:00pm today." I wasn't thrilled with the cameras being there, but I appreciated the warning. I think your annoyance is reasonable. Something larger-scale than a tourist's home video, and moreover something that the restaurant undoubtedly knew about in advance, should have been communicated to patrons. I would write a letter to the restaurant manager explaining what bothered you about the experience.
posted by Meg_Murry at 3:24 PM on March 21, 2010

You could also ask what school it was and contact the school directly so they can speak to their students and hopefully prevent this from happening again. Catching people in the background of photos or videos is definitely less intrusive that having the camera visibly focused on you as you eat.

Personally, I would have approached the crew themselves and asked that my family not be filmed again and that the shot footage not used as well as getting contact info for their school when my first complaint was ignored.
posted by saucysault at 3:26 PM on March 21, 2010

I have a little job taking photos inside restaurants and bars for a website that does reviews. I always try to go when the venues are almost empty, and if any diners look like they're going to end up in one of my shots, I always ask them if they mind, and tell them what the photo is for, out of simple politeness. It was unprofessional, and you should be pissed off.
posted by Jimbob at 3:28 PM on March 21, 2010 [5 favorites]

You have every right to be annoyed. Yelp is your friend.
posted by dirk gently at 3:29 PM on March 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

As a point of reference, in France there's a droit a l'image (right to the/your image) which mans any public use of your image has to be authorised by you.

Which is to say that your expectation of privacy is reasonable and shared.

That said while its a discomfort I wouldn't call it a violation. I completely understand during the dinner it was very disrespectful what they did and the restaurant manager and the video crew should have taken your complaints into account. But I wouldn't dwell on it: we've all appeared in a news broadcast somewhere.

If you're still concerned you can found out what they were filming for, even request from the people taping that you don't appear in the final product.
posted by litleozy at 3:35 PM on March 21, 2010

If the restaurant won't listen, complain to the culinary school.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:39 PM on March 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Anyone in public is fair game to be photographed. That french law is daft, especially in the land of HCB and Lartique.

If it'd happened to me i'd have found this happening funny.
posted by the cuban at 3:44 PM on March 21, 2010

It is the culture now, if you don't want to be filmed, don't go out.
posted by PinkMoose at 3:44 PM on March 21, 2010

Yeah, the restaurant seems to be communicating that they value whatever they're getting from the video (exposure, helping the school, etc.) more than the experience of you, their paying customer.

Or they just might be daft and not get it.

In either case, I'd be miffed.

Give them the benefit of the doubt and allow them to make good, especially before venting on Yelp. Contact them, tell them about your experience, and see how they react.

They should have had the foresight to not make this mistake, but the hallmark of quality isn't perfection, but how problems are handled when they arise.
posted by asuprenant at 3:52 PM on March 21, 2010

On a scale of 1 to 10, a 7. Mainly because after you complained they were still dismissive of your legitimate point.
posted by fantasticninety at 3:56 PM on March 21, 2010

I feel as if my privacy was violated

No, it was not. You are in public and have no privacy.

That being said, it is annoying to be eating when someone is bugging you, however that may be, and being annoyed is fine. I'd write a letter to them explaining your issue and if you want go contact the culinary school to make sure they don't use you in whatever they are doing.
posted by zombieApoc at 4:08 PM on March 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

I can completely understand that you would not want to be filmed in public.

As a filmmaker I always ask permission, and get a release signed if the person is in any way recognizable.

However, it is the people, like the culinary school, who make it difficult for me out in the world because if I want to shoot at a restaurant or something, the location has often been burned by careless and rude people, like the culinary school.

Therefore I really think it would be wonderful if you complained to the culinary school. They are not only disrupting you, but making it difficult for other films to be made. They may not know they are doing anything wrong.
posted by niccolo at 4:30 PM on March 21, 2010

As a legal matter - no, you do not have a right to not be photographed / videotaped in a public space. The restaurant is open to the public. At the same time, the restaurant has the right, but not obligation, to restrict access, being a private business. It would have been the decent thing to do to warn their customers.

Things change, however, if the resulting photo/video is going to be publicly available or commercially exploited. At that point, the people involved need to get consent.
posted by VikingSword at 4:39 PM on March 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Btw. I Am Not A Lawyer and this is not legal advice, I've just done films/documentaries and photography in public. For the exact niceties, you need a lawyer.
posted by VikingSword at 4:40 PM on March 21, 2010

They were within their rights to film you if they had permission from the restaurant.

You'd be within your rights to flip the film crew off, complain loudly to the staff, and tell them you're going to post about your experience on multiple review sites on the internet.

At a minimum, they should have asked the film crew to not film you when you objected. If they'd been serious about keeping your business, they should have considered comping your meal.
posted by DaveP at 4:44 PM on March 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

You may be interested in this.

But really, the legalities aside, if you weren't comfortable with it, then the restaurant staff should have taken you seriously and asked them to just film other tables. It is just good business not to alienate a customer. You were way more polite than I would probably have been. I'm pretty phobic about being filmed or photographed, so if I had been there they would have more than likely been treated to the spectacle of me crying and/or putting my face down on the table till they left me alone. It may have been legal but it was not smart of the restaurant to allow that filming without notifying people and giving them the option to opt out.
posted by gudrun at 6:21 PM on March 21, 2010

The restaurant is not "in public" even thought it's open to the public. If the owners weren't okay with the filming, they could kick the students out of the restaurant. And, if you didn't like the filming, you had the right to complain, leave, and/or never eat there again. If the restaurant owners want to keep your business, they should have responded more appropriately. You absolutely have a right to be annoyed - it's just bad manners on the part of the restaurant owners... in a nicer world, the manager would have posted a small notice on the door and also been more hospitable to your complaint.
posted by belau at 8:25 PM on March 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Disclaimer: I do this for a living, so I'm coming at it from the other side.

As a professional in video production, I always ensure that we post signs or otherwise inform everyone in an establishment that we will be shooting at that time. In a restaurant it usually means the hostess informing the patrons when they arrive (although the large jib and lights are often a better clue). If I'm doing a wide shot, then that will generally suffice. If I'm doing any sort of shot that focuses on individuals, or makes them more recognizable than a pan of the entire room, I personally approach those people and let them know what it is for, what is involved, and get their permission.

All that being said: These were not professionals. They were students doing a project for culinary school. I understand your annoyance, and the management should have attempted to solve the problem. But in reality they were looking at it as a small time school project, most likely to never make it out of a classroom setting. Perhaps a complaint to the culinary school would be your best approach, so they take the steps to act professionally when working on these projects.
posted by shinynewnick at 8:47 PM on March 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would take this up with the culinary school. While it was rude for the restaurant to not let anyone know in advance that it would happen (and I'd certainly have a word with them), it's also a possibility that they had no idea either and the manager on duty figured (wrongly) that there would be no objections. In our current litigious society, you'd have to be an ostrich not to realize that doing this kind of thing could bite you in the arse legally.
posted by arishaun at 10:43 PM on March 21, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the replies. Unfortunately, I don't know which culinary school it was. I've written to the general manager to explain my concern. Maybe she'll respond.
posted by aberrant at 11:29 PM on March 21, 2010

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