Your private life just got a little less private.

A Kansas judge has made a ruling that could set a rather disturbing precedent.

They say, of course, that these days you have to be very careful
about what you post online, because it might hurt your image and career.
Well, you might have to be even more careful as the ever-thinning
dividing lines between our private, public and professional lives just
got a little thinner.

It starts out well enough. According to Forbes Woman,
the judge decided that nursing student Doyle Byrnes shouldn’t have been
kicked out of her program for a controversial photo of herself posted
on Facebook.

Byrnes was expelled from her nursing program for the Facebook photo.
She took it to court. The Kansas City Star reported that, according to
the complaint, a student asked College nursing instructor Amber Delphia
for permission to take the photos and told her they were going to post
the pictures on Facebook, which they did. Judge Eric Melgren overturned
Byrnes’ dismissal.

Now Forbes Woman reports that the actual written opinion in the case
has come out, and that’s the part that’s worrisome. Melgren wrote:

“[P]hotos are taken to be viewed. When [nursing student supervisor]
Delphia granted permission to take the photos, it was unreasonable to
assume that they would not be viewed. If the photos were objectionable,
to say nothing of objectionable to the point [of] warranting expulsion
from the nursing program, then it would not have mattered whether the
photos were viewed on Facebook or elsewhere. By giving the students
permission to take the photos, which Delphia admitted, it was reasonable
to anticipate that the photos would be shown to others.”

This, Forbes points out, seems to suggest that once you give
permission for a photo to be taken, you are also granting permission for
its distribution. And anyone who has ever gotten a little frisky with a
camera – still or video – knows exactly where I’m going with this…

Forbes points out that, “In 2009, Piper Peterson sued her
ex-boyfriend for emailing sex photos of her to her friends and family
and was awarded $55,000 by a jury. If the [same] photo logic had been
applied in that case, there would have been no payday resulting from
that digitally-transmitted sex photo debacle…”

Even if the logic is being used to rightfully protect someone – in this case Byrnes – it’s faulty logic.

Law professor Eric Goldman, who posted the ruling to his blog writes:

“Many photos are never published to the public. For example, the
students could have taken the photos for archival purposes or for
further self-study. So I’d like to think the court wasn’t saying that
consent to photo-taking automatically means consent to widespread
publication of that photo.”

I’d like to think that too. But you still might want to be start
thinking twice every time you allow a picture to be taken. You might not
think this can affect you. But here are a few examples of people who
lost gigs over pictures:

In 2009, Georgia high school teacher Ashley Payne claimed she was
forced to resign after her school principal “questioned her about her
Facebook page, which included photos of her holding wine and beer and an
expletive,” according to CBSAtlanta. HOLDING BEER AND WINE. ON
VACATION. She is not, as far as I can tell, part of a non-drinking sect
or anything like that.

Austin, Texas, high school art teacher Tamara Hoover made the news in
2006, when she was asked/forced to resign after she posted nude art
photos on her Flickr page. According to CNN, Hoover made no apologies.
She said, “I’m an artist and I’m going to participate in the arts. If
that’s not something they want me to do then I want to be told that. I
don’t feel as if I was doing anything that was beyond expectations.”

In 2008, Arlington, Oregon Mayor, Carmen Kontur-Gronquist was stripped of her office
after a picture appeared online of Kontur-Gronquist in her underwear.
The pic was taken for a fitness competition she never entered and later
posted on MySpace by a relative hoping to help the single mom’s social
life. “Do I apologize for the photos on MySpace?” she said at the time,
“No, I don’t.” Instead, she started selling it as a poster. PWND!

In 2009, Vancouver NDP candidate Ray Lam stepped down after pics posted on Facebook got him in trouble.
One of the photos, taken at Pride, showed Lam, who is openly gay,
holding a woman’s breast. In the other, his pants are down and two
people are pulling at his underwear. A celebration of Gay Pride, or an
“inappropriate” lack of judgement? It’s often in the eye of the
beholder, and you never know who is looking at your pics.

Get some tips on how to protect your privacy on Facebook.