OVER THE TOP: Parents need consent to snap own kids
MODERN technology has placed a camera in everyone's hands, but how far does our right to take photographs go?
This is the question raised by a controversial photo policy at Gympie's Aquatic Recreation Centre which has drawn the ire of parents and been slammed by one of Australia's top civil liberties lawyers.
Two guests have run into the policy in the past week, where they reported being told that after they signed the consent form, staff would also have to check the photos they took before they left the centre.
According to one Gympie mother, who said she just wanted to take a few pictures of her teenage son on the slide, it felt like an invasion of privacy.
"I can understand where they're coming from, but it just seems ridiculous that you need a consent form for your own child," she said.
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Another Gympie woman who wanted to snap a few photos of her grandchildren said the policy "took the shine off" her family's trip to the pool.
"You're sitting there watching the children and you're going, oh there's a photo, and there's another one, but you can't take them unless you sign a form, wear a lanyard and let someone you've never met before look through the photos on your phone before you leave," she said.
According to a spokeswoman for Belgravia Leisure, who manage the pool for Gympie Regional Council, the policy is in place to prevent the misuse of cameras at the facility, particularly given the growth of social media.
"We take community safety and privacy seriously and as such have a process in place to manage appropriate photography within the centre," she said.
"Photography in changerooms is strictly prohibited at all Belgravia Leisure managed facilities."
She said ARC guests who wanted to take photos were asked to register their intent at the front desk.
They would then be issued a lanyard to "identify they have followed the centre policy and staff don't need to raise the issue again" with them.
"As they return their lanyard, it is common for us to quickly sight the photos to make sure that other patrons especially children are not identifiable in the background," she said.
However, lawyer and President of the Australian Council for Civil Liberties Terry O'Gorman slammed the policy as "grossly excessive".
"It's an infringement on the privacy of the vast majority of people doing the right thing," he said.
Mr O'Gorman said the company had no right to ask for or to see any photos, and if a guest had concerns about someone taking inappropriate pictures they should first speak to the person themselves, or then seek help from pool staff.
While he accepted that parents would have concerns for their children, he said questionable behaviour could be easily managed by vigilant staff.
"We really have to avoid the situation where we become a nation of spies because we're paranoid about pedophilia," he said.
"The real way of dealing with the problem is a common sense approach."
He said it was an issue which had been brought before the Standing Committee of the Attorney General about five years ago and was considered to be an "overreaction".
Although the centre is owned by Gympie Regional Council, a spokeswoman said as they were not the managers, policy decisions were not theirs to make.
"Although not aware of the details, Gympie Regional Council supports the safety of children," she said.