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Filming in Public – Frequently Asked Questions

Filming in public places is commonplace and with the rise of social media platforms, the majority of people are likely to be captured on camera without their knowledge or consent in their lifetime.Many people ask, is this legal? We have outlined some common questions and answers for you below.

Can someone take pictures of me when I am out in public?

The very simple answer is that the UK allows you to film and take pictures in a public place because it is not reasonable to expect total privacy in a public place.

Is this always the case?

An individual’s expectation of privacy cannot be absolute in a public place; however, some cases show that just because filming takes place in public – it does not necessarily mean that there is no right to privacy. Though it is unlikely that publication of an image of a person carrying out an ordinary task in a public place (i.e. going to the shops) would be regarded as private, it still needs to be assessed whether it would be reasonable to expect privacy in a public place.  This needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis as the assessment will vary depending on what the person is doing and who they are.

High profile cases involving JK Rowling, Naomi Campbell and others have shown that the right to privacy may still exist in public. It is likely that the more sensitive the nature of the information that has been recorded, the more likely an invasion of privacy has taken place.

What about GDPR?

For the purpose of GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018, film footage and photographs that show the identity of individuals are personal data.  However, this data protection legislation does not apply to personal data which is ‘processed by a natural person in the course of a purely personal or household activity’. As an example, if you went on holiday and filmed or photographed members of your family in a public place, even though you may have caught various other individuals in the background, this is not bound by data protection legislation.

What if someone films me on their phone and posts the content on social media?

At this point, the motivation behind the filming and the way in which it will be used determines the legality of their actions. Where the party filming is bound by data protection legislation, you (as the person who has been filmed) acquire several rights in respect of that film, including the right to be provided with a copy, to object to how it is used and, potentially, to have it erased. Where recording takes place on two or more occasions and is of a nature that causes alarm or distress to the individual filmed then that individual is also entitled to seek damages, an interdict (injunction) preventing the filming or a non-harassment order.


Do you think some of these sections apply to you, but you are unsure how to proceed? Proelium Law is here to help you. We are continuing to work during this difficult period. Call or email us if you have an enquiry, we will call you back at a time convenient for you.


Jasmin Bonello is a paralegal at Proelium Law LLP. Having obtained her Law LLB (Hons) Degree at Bournemouth University, she is now undertaking the Legal Practice Course at BPP University. Jasmin is currently writing her LLM research project on private military and security companies. 

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