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A couple of weeks ago two of my colleagues went around the office filming for another colleague's anniversary video. The filming took place on company premises during work hours, and I understand it was their own initiative.

I have a strong aversion to being filmed. After they were through I contacted both via Skype telling them I do not consent being filmed, and asked for a courtesy warning next time, so I can get out of their way. I have a cordial relationship with both. The little footage of me they got made it to the final cut.

Another anniversary is coming up, and one of them decided to recruit a third camera-man, and the two of them came into my office again, smartphones in-hand. Again I left the office to let them do their thing, but I'm not too chuffed about this. No courtesy warning was given and I suspect the original pair didn't take me too seriously the first time.

Our company handbook doesn't mention video recording anywhere (except when outlining CCTV policy), and the only relevant bit I found was that mobile phone use is to be kept to a minimum during work hours.

I'm contemplating starting a Skype conversation with both colleagues, as well as the second-time offender's manager, who I'm also cordial with, to ensure that none of this footage makes the new video. I plan to keep it friendly and informal in tone.

Ideally I'd like them to warn me next time they feel like shooting videos while not kicking up too much of a stink about it - just the right amount. I have a few days until they edit the video.

How can I effectively address the issue of being recorded against my wishes?


Resolution: I accepted DarkCygnus' answer as it avoids escalating while having a good chance of being effective, and spoke to both of them again. The reaction I got from the 'new recruit' was quite telling:

Some people say they don't wanna be in the video, I guess you really don't wanna be in the video.

This makes it clear to me that he didn't realize I was being serious. Without me saying anything other than I don't like being filmed after sitting down with him, he immediately assured me I won't be included in the final product.

As for the other guy, the 'second-time offender', I was unable to meet in person but I reiterated my concerns over Skype. I explicitly told him I don't consent being filmed and that I don't want to be in the final video. I repeated my offer to get out of his way with a little heads up. He acknowledged all.

If, despite all this, they decide to include footage of me, I plan to speak with HR to have the company handbook updated for those of us who don't like being filmed. I don't plan to point any fingers, merely highlight those concerns of us more inclined to privacy.


Edit 2: Unfortunately, I was completely ignored. The video was shown in the staff room over pizza, with my face prominently in it. First thing today I wrote to HR to clarify our policy on the matter. The two HR ladies both assured me they are in total agreement with me, and to leave the matter in their hands - and I'm happy to do just that.

Changing the accepted answer to AndreiROM's. Managers are there to resolve conflicts before HR needs get involved, we might as well use them.

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I had an oblivious teammate do the same thing to me one time, and I was certainly not comfortable with it. She treated my request not to film me as some sort of joke, then proceeded to tease me about being "shy" (all the while filming me although I had just asked her not to). I just went to my manager, and expressed my concerns. He then spoke to her, the issue was cleared up, and the video deleted.

You don't have to come across as spoil sport either:

Hey boss, X and Y were filming the office earlier today for Z's anniversary video. I understand that they're excited, and want to create some memories for Z, but I'm not comfortable being filmed. I'd be fine to leave the office while they did their thing, but no head's up was given that they would be filming today. Do you think you could speak to them about this?

I suspect that HR will quickly formulate a policy once it becomes a known concern. Also, when they walk in to film, express your concern to them directly:

Hey guys, I'd rather not be filmed, thanks!

If they insist, very firmly request that they stop, and any footage of you be removed from the final edit. This is non-negotiable, and further cause for speaking to a manager if they refuse to oblige you.

  • At most companies, it is common policy to warn employees before filming takes place, and give a suggestion what to do to avoid being filmed. In most countries ( including the UK ), this is also a legal matter, and as a company, you try to avoid being sued. – bytepusher Nov 10 '17 at 6:46
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Is initiating a group chat like this a good idea?

Instead of doing that via Skype or other platform (which can be ignored or delay reading it), I suggest you talk to them in person instead. Go to their office and say "hey, can we have a talk?". And then proceed to explain them your request (as polite as possible).

This is the second time this happens, so it is understandable you are upset about it. I would try to see if the face-to-face talk works first, before escalating this to management. If they come to reason and accept your request then they could erase that content right there or promise to withhold it from the final footage.

If they keep ignoring your request then you can well consider taking this with their manager, where he will surely put a stop to this situation.

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    I chose Skype initially since it leaves some rudimentary paper-trail. I had a feeling they might ignore me. Maybe I should try talking to them in person this time as you suggest. – rath Nov 8 '17 at 15:51
  • @rath yes, you already tried in more subtle ways. Some people need to be told things more clearly than others. Always remember to keep it as polite as possible when explaining. The paper trail is a good thing though, if this escalates you already have that other evidence to support your claim. – DarkCygnus Nov 8 '17 at 15:52
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    @rath - So have the discussion in person, then send an email, saying "as we just discussed .... and ..." providing a summary of the discussion. Then request a read receipt. If it happens again, escalate the issue, but I would have escalated the issue during the editing phase of the first video personally. (I also don't like to be filmed randomly) – Donald Nov 8 '17 at 17:53
  • @rath what Ramhound suggests could also work, if you feel like you need to leave more paper trails. However, I still suggest you speak to them face to face first. – DarkCygnus Nov 8 '17 at 18:04
  • For a first instance a face-to-face may have been appropriate. For a second instance where the offenders clearly understood that what they were doing was unwelcome to the OP (see this comment if you haven't already) and had ignored his request to be edited out the first time, then a paper trail and escalation is definitely appropriate. – AndyT Nov 9 '17 at 10:13
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I think that something I learned from my child's Montessori teacher is relevant here.

While we're all trained to be polite almost to excess, sometimes the answer is to be respectful, but not polite, to convey that we are serious.

Hi, I don't like being filmed, can you please let me know in advance next time? Thanks.

That's polite, and probably fine for a first try - or if you're not all that worried about it but just don't really care for being filmed (I'm totally there: I don't like being filmed, but it doesn't really bother me; I'd take this approach.)

But the problem is that this doesn't really convey seriousness. Especially if it's in email. It is a polite request, and as a request is something that they can ignore.

John and Jane,

You were filming in the office again yesterday, after I had previously asked that you notify me prior to any filming, and to not include my image in any footage you take. I do not consent to be filmed for any purpose, and do not wish for my image to be in any footage that is distributed for any purpose.

You may not film in the office when I would be in the shot. If you would like to film around the office, notify me 72 hours prior to the filming so I can make alternate arrangements and inform you of any scheduling conflicts that I might have. Copy my manager and your manager on any such correspondence.

Rath

This is entirely respectful, and there is not a word in there that can be taken as offensive, even if this were to a higher-up. But it is also very clearly serious: it is effectively something that someone from HR would send. The fact that you are cordial with these folks is beside the point, or even is the point: they might interpret your polite entreaty differently (less seriously) than they would if you were a complete stranger.

Conveying the information directly, with direct language and action verbs - "You may not", "Copy" - rather than passive verbs and polite phrasing - will add that level of seriousness and make it clear to them that you're not just joking around, and you're not just a little uncomfortable. They have crossed a line, and you are describing that line to them so that they don't do it again.

Unless they intend to make you uncomfortable, they'll see the seriousness here and hopefully be apologetic, or at least confirm that they will do so in the future.

Send them this email, including your manager and theirs: Your manager so that he/she understands why you're asking to work from home next time this happens (or whatever), their manager both to convey seriousness and in case this is not just a 'you' thing (it's possible others have the same issue, after all).

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    While the idea behind this is good, I rather dislike that second paragraph. You may not film is a pretty strong statement, and the 72 hours also seems something that basically pulled straight out of the air and is probably hard to back up by anything at all. Before asking managers to be included in this correspondence, you should probably talk to your own manager (even if it's just to let them know you are asking for this). – Jasper Nov 9 '17 at 7:57
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    @Jasper It's intended to be strong. That's the point: to make it clear this is serious, and not a joking matter. As for 72 hours - pick whatever makes sense, the point is to give a specific amount of time you want to know ahead of time so you can adjust your schedule. It should be up to you, not them, given you're offering to accommodate them. – Joe Nov 9 '17 at 7:59
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    Whether or not they may film isn't up to you. It depends on the law and the company. For example, it might matter what the footage is used for. Unless, you checked that, you're making a claim of which you don't know whether it's true. As for the 72 hours (or whatever time makes sense), the only thing that's up to you is whether they can film you. Broad claims about "if you want to film around the office" or making demands about giving notice are out of place. So, yes, it's meant to be strong and it is supposed to be serious. However, these claims are stronger than you could enforce... – Jasper Nov 9 '17 at 9:31
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    This is the right answer. One never knows when a request to not be filmed/photographed is due to being internet-stalked in the past by someone not yet in police custody. – Pieter Geerkens Nov 10 '17 at 1:29
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IANAL, but it is important to note that in most jobs, you don't have an expectation of privacy from your employer in the workplace. You can certainly express your concerns and reluctance, but I wouldn't make this a hard stand. If the company sees the need to film activity in the office, they have that right as long as it is for valid company purposes. An anniversary party as the reason for filming might be a stretch, but your rights are limited. Obvious exceptions exist, for example, rest rooms, locker rooms and similar facilities.

If they used this video to harass or singularly embarrass you that would be a problem. If they posted the video in a public forum without your permission, for example a website, SnapChat, Instagram, ..., then that would also be a problem. In both those cases you have a legitimate complaint.

If this was a company sponsored event, the best you can hope for is a little decorum in the process. And accept the fact that your rights are limited when you are at work.

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    "If the boss says they want a video of everyone in the office, they have that right ..." - Are you an attorney? Because I know a whole cadre of actors who will tell you that's absolutely incorrect. Corporate videos are covered under the same laws as broadcast productions. You'd better get a lawyer to back you up and cite a jurisdiction before you tell people that kind of thing. – Wesley Long Nov 9 '17 at 0:56
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    This is completely incorrect. In fact, unless you have signed an explicit waiver of your rights in this respect, I would expect that most jurisdictions would accept a lawsuit on these grounds. I'm sure there are companies that include (as part of hiring paperwork boilerplate) a legal agreement about video recordings made on the premises, but as @WesleyLong says that is certainly not true by default. – Wildcard Nov 9 '17 at 3:48
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    In fact, signing paperwork to consult on site at a major U.S. telecomm where shows are also produced, I recall having to sign an explicit agreement that if I walked by the window of the room where the show is shot, my footage might appear on the air, and that I was agreeing to this—and that if I didn't want my footage to appear, I agreed to be (legally) responsible for avoiding walking through the background while the show was being recorded/broadcast. So this answer is absolutely false. – Wildcard Nov 9 '17 at 3:51
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    A legal right (or lack thereof) to privacy from your employer isn't relevant here. The filming is being carried out by colleagues for social purposes, not management for business purposes. – AndyT Nov 9 '17 at 10:17
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    I'm not sure what your google search for "can my company film me at work" revealed. My search clearly shows that videotaping someone without at least a business reason or their consent would be illegal in most countries. In UK, videotaping employees without a business reason is forbidden by the Data Protection Act. – Dmitry Grigoryev Nov 9 '17 at 12:20
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You could give them a slightly stronger warning, but coat it with a little humor.

Hey guys, I'm sure you didn't know that I'm in the witness protection program for informing on mob-bosses. As a valued team-member, I'm sure you don't want me to get wacked after showing that video around. In all seriousness, I do have a strong aversion to being filmed, as we discussed previously. Do keep this in mind in the future, won't you? My very life may depend on it!

Sometimes, people need a few reminders.

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    Given they have already ignored a polite request not to film, the chances they will pay any attention to a joke like this is close to zero. – Martin Bonner Nov 10 '17 at 8:21

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