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I took a few flights recently, and for the first time ever (for me), all passengers were told before departing that "taking photos or videos of other passengers or crew is not permitted unless you get permission from them". Seems like this is really being enforced, because on one flight an elderly passenger who took a photo of his partner also got other people in the frame and a crew member sat down with him to get him to delete the photo.

One flight was from South America to Spain with Air Europa; the other one a flight within Europe with Transavia. This is the first time in many years that I have encountered this.

Is this something new? Where is this coming from? New legislation?

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    Recent-ish legislation in some countries means consent is needed for just taking a photograph of one or more identifiable people, even in a public place, and it is becoming increasingly common for consent to be required before publishing it (which would include on social media) even if such publication is not for commercial purposes commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/…
    – Traveller
    Feb 16 at 23:44
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    @Traveller that would mean that pretty much any photos in public places are just impossible?
    – user626528
    Feb 16 at 23:54
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    Asking the elderly passenger to delete the photo seems like a weird first move (if it was indeed the first move). Shouldn't the first move be to give the option to ask permission from the passengers in the picture, or to delete and retake with no unapproved passenger in the picture?
    – justhalf
    Feb 17 at 7:47
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    In many countries, publishing photos with someone without their consent has been forbidden for decades. Taking the photos was allowed, though, but of course to enforce the former it’s a lot easier to forbid the latter.
    – jcaron
    Feb 17 at 8:31
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    I'm not aware of any new legislation, but taking/publishing photos of strangers hasn't been all that acceptable or legal in many places for quite a few years/decades now. Maybe this was in response to one country changing their laws (which encouraged/forced airlines to follow suit), maybe it was in response to a recent incident or maybe they did it unprompted.
    – NotThatGuy
    Feb 17 at 13:15

3 Answers 3

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Apart from the legal aspect, I could imagine another reason why new policies concerning filming (and photographing) on board have been established: 
There seems to be an increase in video footage of passengers and airline personnel in controversial situations (e.g. concerning enforcement of health-related mask mandates) going viral online in the last years. Maybe airlines want an easy way to at least control production of such footage.

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  • Also, a photo of a passenger could be linked to a certain flight, creating proof of someone's presence or absence in some place at some time. That is exactly the kind of information considered sensitive personal data. Feb 18 at 23:30
  • Thanks. I'll mark this as accepted as it most directly explains where this might be coming from. Appreciate all the answers.
    – anon
    Feb 19 at 19:39
  • Definitely airlines must be alert to things going viral. There are various reasons around image-capturing that may apply: COVID/mask-related harassment adds to existing problems like Islamophobia; people filming cabin crew (and the cabin crew objecting); harassment of other passengers, like men making creepy images of woman passengers or crew (upskirts, sleeping, down-blouse shots, etc); people filming passengers behaving badly, which is likely to cause arguments and fights; anything that give a negative impression of the airline. It's definitely easier to just ban entirely.
    – Stuart F
    Feb 21 at 15:53
  • Also the possibility of people deliberately doing stuff to create confrontation or memorable moments, and filming it to create social media content. A lot of anti-mask people have tried to provoke by removing or not wearing masks and filming it. But there's a huge range of stunts on TikTok and other social media that involve filming people without their permission.
    – Stuart F
    Feb 21 at 15:54
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Photos of people in airplanes specifically not permitted. [...] Where is this coming from?

Typically, from the airline policy, as it's the case in the US where airplanes are not considered public spaces:

Airlines have more power on planes because as private parties they are not bound by the First Amendment. "They are within their rights to establish these rules, they are within their rights to throw you off the aircraft if you continue filming," says Joseph Larsen, a media-law attorney in Houston.

Note that unlike planes, airports are considered public spaces in the US:

Lawyers who specialize in First Amendment or travel law say airlines generally cannot limit photography or video recording in an airport because it is a public space.

As Traveller mentioned, countries are increasingly restrictive about taking pictures in public spaces.

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    then again, photography in airports is often restricted not under privacy law but for security reasons, a fantastic blanket excuse
    – jwenting
    Feb 17 at 10:42
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    I am not sure "they are within their rights to throw you off the aircraft if you continue filming" is correct while the aircraft is in the air. They would at least need to land before throwing you off
    – Henry
    Feb 17 at 11:16
  • @Henry post DJ Cooper, they lack the capability as aircraft doors can no longer be opened in flight. Outside of national airspace especially, I'm not too sure about them not having the right :)
    – jwenting
    Feb 17 at 11:59
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    @jwenting You're not allowed to commit murder in international waters. I can't imagine it would be allowed on airplanes either. Figuring out which jurisdiction to prosecute in might be a problem, but there will always be somebody.
    – A. R.
    Feb 17 at 12:55
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    @AndrewRay /sarc "But, your honor, he was alive and healthy when he stepped out the door"
    – CGCampbell
    Feb 17 at 13:23
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Surely it depends on the jurisdiction to which the plane is subject, just like with ships? The law of the country under whose flag the plane flies applies to everyone in the plane, just as it would on land. If that country specifies restrictions on photographing people you are bound by those. Airlines may presumably apply their own rules within that framework. You have no a priori rights on the basis of where you come from.

I am not a lawyer.

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  • To underline your point, Germany recognizes the right to one's own likeness, which limits your rights to take pictures of me and publish them.
    – tschwarz
    Feb 19 at 4:10

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