Secret Snapshots: What are your rights?
May 13, 2010 (WPVI) -- Some call it the newest form of people watching, however, after visiting some of these websites you may wish you hadn't looked at all.There are a thousand "what were they thinking?" photographs on the site peopleofwalmart.com, as well as other so-called satirical social commentary sites like peopleofikea.com, randomcreepyguy.com and peopleofpublictransit.com.
The concept is simple: people from around the country posting snapshots of seemingly unknowing individuals who they feel should have known better.
"The advent of the cell phone with the camera enabled in it, whether it's still photography or video photography, that just brings us one step closer to this total surveillance society," explained Rob D'Ovidio of Drexel University.
In other words, someone is always watching, but is this legal? D'Ovidio said it depends on the content and context.
"In areas where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as a health club locker room, an individual can't walk in there and snap a photograph of me when I'm partially dressed."
On the other hand, if you're partially exposed in a public place? Well, then D'Ovidio says not only is what the sites doing fall within the confines of the law they're actually making big bucks of this 'gotcha' form of internet entertainment; after all, some of these sites are an advertising gold mine racking up 4 or 5 million hits a day.
"They are going to continue attracting advertisers; people are going to make money and they are going to stay online," said D'Ovidio
Not everyone agrees, of course, that these sites should be making money at the expense of others.
"I don't agree with that at all, I mean, if somebody's going to be filmed, I believe they should be made aware of it," said George Madison of Philadelphia's West Oak Lane section.
James Thomas of West Philadelphia agrees, "It could harm people unjustly."
"If it's offending people I think they should stand up and do something about it," said Michael Penna of Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
But the founder of peopleofwalmart.com, Adam Kipple told us over the phone that the site does have limits.
"We definitely won't make fun of the handicapped, mentally or physically, religious, obese people."
But there are obese people on the site. We asked him to clarify what we meant.
"No, no we don't make fun of overweight people. It's the overweight people in midriffs and mini skirts, that's the difference between making fun of overweight people and overweight people who don't know how to dress themselves."
Kipple told us the site does state that people submitting pictures is required to get the permission of the person they photographed and that's done on the honor system. Several hundred pictures are submitted each day.
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