Snapchat era challenges generational ideas of privacy

Emma Drainsin, Editor-in-Chief, Newspaper

Over 3.5 billion Snapchats are sent every day, according to a 2017 report by Possessing the ability to capture every moment with the touch of a button, Snapchat and other similar interfaces have become increasingly popular with teenagers.

But what happens when someone doesn’t want to be filmed or photographed? A generational divide between students and teachers blurs the line of what is appropriate to share online, and what should remain private.

Upholding notions of privacy can be a challenge with the rise of social media. Research shows that teenagers tend to forgo privacy settings and post personal information online; according to a 2013 joint study by Pew Research Center and the Berkman Center for Internet Society, 91 percent of teenagers post photos of themselves, 71 percent post their school name, 53 percent post their email addresses and 20 percent even post their cellphone numbers. With so many teenagers sharing their personal data, the idea of asking for permission to photograph or film someone else can seem foreign.

Though students may not be aware, some teachers are uncomfortable with the idea of being filmed. Science teacher Matt Medeiros begins many of his classes by asking students not to film or photograph him without his permission.

“It stems from an event at a prior school where some students filmed me doing something funny,” Medeiros said. “Being as shy and introverted as I am, it made me really uncomfortable. It was all in good fun, but I still was pretty embarrassed and would have preferred not to have that ever on video, for the rest of forever.”

When Urban math teacher Richard Lautze found out a student had filmed him during his class,  he said, “At first I thought it was fine, and then I realized that I had not given permission for this to be posted. I would like to know if I am being filmed. It seems an invasion of my privacy to have something I am doing videoed and then posted without my permission.”

Another potential issue with filming in the classroom is when the documentation is during intense or personal moments. “Any moment when you’re trying to develop a safe space for conversation, I think that needs to be an off-limit filming set up,” Stacie Muñoz, Director of Educational Technology, said.

Phone use of any kind is actually not allowed at Urban, according to the handbook. The handbook states, “Outside distractions – including but not limited to: smartphones, MP3 players/iPods, internet surfing, instant messaging, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites – seriously disrupt the process of learning in our classrooms and are not allowed without specific permission from the teacher.” Though this rule does not explicitly name filming, with phone use and Snapchat explicitly prohibited, it seems highly discouraged.

Recording without permission can also become a legal issue. Wiretap laws can apply to filming, and while federal law permits filming with audio, so long as one party consents, California’s laws are more stringent, requiring every party in a conversation to consent to recording. This rule can apply inside the classroom, and can lead to a misdemeanor or felony charge.

However, there are also moments when filming may be more acceptable. “I think that if you’re doing something that’s somewhat public, like presenting at ASM, or getting pied in the face at lunch, I think it’s kind of an expectation,” Muñoz said.

Often times, Snapchatting flies under the radar of teachers. Nick Andino (‘18) said, that teachers “usually don’t know [they are being filmed] half the time, which could be an issue itself.”

It is plausible that students may be unaware of the potential discomfort of their teachers. When asked when filming a teacher might be inappropriate, Isabel Sheppard (‘20) responded, “I haven’t thought about it before. When I see someone posting a Snapchat or video of a teacher, it doesn’t really go through my mind that they might not want that.”

This sentiment was echoed by Lily Nonaka (‘20) who said, “When I am recording something in class, like in science when we’re doing a cool experiment, and the teacher happens to be in it, I don’t even think twice that maybe they don’t want to be in the video.”

It’s clear that there are differing perceptions around how we address privacy with our social media, so communication when recording is key to ensure that everyone involved is comfortable.