We recently attended a friend's birthday party where some pictures were taken. I had no problem with it, as long as these photos were not put online and shared.

The majority of my friends (I'd say almost everyone) don't care as long as the pictures are not embarrassing. I really have a problem when someone decides to upload a picture of me online, or in a worst-case scenario share it with people I don't know or even public.

I definitely know that this friend and most of my other friends don't fully understand my request. They will treat me as being fussy since the related pictures are not bad in any way.

So my problem is that I want to tell my friend about my privacy concerns without risking reducing the strength of our friendship. I also don't want my friend to feel awkward taking photos which include me.

How can I tell my friend about my concerns without creating an awkward situation?

I'm not looking for a rough solution. I know how to get the pictures removed in worst case and I'm sure the pictures would get removed if I ask for removal. My issue here is how to talk about it.

Edit: (answering comments) Some photos are already online and shared for a group of friends (10+-). We are 23-27 years old and we live in Germany.

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    "I definitely know that this friend [...] don't understand my request" and "How can I tell my friend about my concerns without creating an awkward situation?" are mutually exclusive, I think. The only thing that can be optimized is the level of awkward, IMHO.
    – Fildor
    Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 9:05
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    @Fildor to not confuse the developers or engeneers i changed it to "not fully understand" :)
    – Otto V.
    Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 9:10
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    Are you in Germany, Otto? Your Profile says Ulm. If so, then there is of course the "Recht am eigenen Bild". But that would be the nuclear solution.
    – Fildor
    Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 11:17
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    Possibly related interpersonal.stackexchange.com/questions/3639/…
    – JMac
    Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 11:49
  • 10
    This doesn't really answer the question, but if people are posing for a group photo, you can always offer to be the one taking the picture.
    – David K
    Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 18:48

8 Answers 8


I want to tell my friend about my privacy concerns without risking to reduce the strength of our friendship.

I would tell them the truth. If they are really your friends, they'll understand. Your life, your rights, your privacy, your choice! Be clear about that. "NO" is sometimes a complete sentence.

I also don't want my friend to feel awkward taking photos which include me.

Well, it is awkward if they don't get your point, don't understand how and why you feel that way.

You definately need to have a talk with your friends, and let them know. Be nice, but firm. I would recommend that you first look over the web for some articles talking about privacy and the problems that arose from there. Get some stories about lack of privacy ready, and tell them how bad it went. Understood or not, it might be awkward anyway, I don't think you can dodge this. But the best way is to tell them that many people around the world have been in trouble at their workplace or in their family, because of pictures thrown on the internet.

If they say that they're not bothered as long as the pictures are not embarrassing, search for the story of that young Austrian girl with her pictures put online by parents. (link not provided because it's in German, nothing found in English). And, hopefully, let them understand how the picture of a tiny, cute little baby/girl can be embarassing years later.

/!\ It's the internet. So, when it's online, not much you can do. Crusher, mill, grinder, you name it! But what started with a finger in the cog will end with you being shredded to parts. No more private life... And beware of the Streisand effect, when it backfires.

I definitely know that this friend and most of my other friends don't fully understand my request.

So, you're left with some very little leeway:

  1. be "funny" and wear a mask :) (Same as you, here. So I did it once. I let you imagine how awkward that was, but many were laughing too. Some got the point.)
  2. Don't go to the party or leave/hide yourself if any picture is taken (did it too. Not bothered anymore after that. Move and repeat : sorry, no picture of me. As much as needed).
  3. Legal action afterwards (tough way, but you have the law on your side, even though it's somehow too late.).

By the way, if you're in Germany, as your profile says, here are some related reading : what the European Laws say about Personal Data - Privacy or this study from the Centre of Interdisciplinary Law and ICT at the University of Leuven in Belgium.

From (and with credit to) @fildor comment: There is also the "Recht am eigenen Bild". In general, you have the right to ask for your picture to be permanently deleted if you didn't accept it to be taken. There are some exceptions, be sure to check if it applies.

  • 4
    There is also the "Recht am eigenen Bild" - of which I am not sure it applies to pics of a Birthday Party. But in general, you have the right to demand your picture is permanently deleted if you didn't accept it to be taken. (There are some exceptions)
    – Fildor
    Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 11:24
  • I know that it's my choice in the end and I don't think they would block my deletion request (on most platforms i can force blocks without their permission anyway). I just hope to find a way without arguing much. I also have no problem if these pictures get shared "offline" as long as noone uploads them in social media. If I always deny pictures of me (sometimes i do), it also causes disappointment. I gonna read the girls story later today. Thx for this answer.
    – Otto V.
    Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 11:28
  • I know going for the legal path isn't your goal, Otto. I just wanted to add that legal link to the Grundgesetz to add a nationally rooted source of legal background in case other people have the same issue.
    – Fildor
    Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 11:50
  • @Fildor : do you mind if I add this information to the answer, with credit to you, so it's more accurate for Germany?
    – OldPadawan
    Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 16:20
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    Sure. Glad to help.
    – Fildor
    Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 17:33

Every person has a comfort zone of what they're happy with being shared. For example, I don't share photos online, but many people do. I still take photos as personal memories, though.

So the case is here that your friends have a different comfort zone than you do. They (I assume) are perfectly happy to post photos that they take on facebook. You can talk to them about it, which other answers suggest, but there is no guarantee that (1) they'll be understanding or (2) the'll take the time to sift through the photos of you and exclude them, or blur you out.

I'm a photo adverse person. I also don't have a facebook profile so I can't go online and check if my friends have posted photos of me. As a result, I've developed the following policy:

1) I don't participate in a photo if I don't want it shared.
(or 1b: I assume every photo taken of me will be shared)

2) The only photos I can control are the ones taken with my camera.

Since so many people are on facebook, I just assume that if it's taken on someone else's device, it will be shared somewhere. If I'm not happy with that, I just don't participate. If I want to take a photo then I use my own camera that I have control over.

This is inconvenient. This means that you won't be joining photos sometimes, or you will have to use your own camera instead. But in my experience, it's worth it in the long run because you have a lot more control of what photos of you end up on facebook.


Context is important. Almost all photos I participate in are family photos. My mom and I will sometimes take a selfie and she'll post it on her facebook profile and I don't mind that. But it's not me at a party/in a compromising position/etc.


Your request is reasonable but unfortunately it is even more impractical than you think. As soon as someone has installed a facebook app, facebook runs every photo the person takes through its severs, whether the user actively uploads it on facebook or not. There is reason to expect that facebook scans those photos for known faces and for geolocation. So even if your friends tell you that they won't upload your photo on social media, as soon as they take a photo with their cell phone or tablet camera, facebook knows where you were, when, and with whom.

So the only thing you can do is to ask your friends not to take any photos of you unless they use a real camera and then not to upload those on Facebook.

There is no way to do this without inviting at least some debate, since most people just take it for granted that they have no privacy anymore or are ready to trade their privacy for "a great app" (or whatever). Thus you might just have to be blunt:

Please don't take any photos of me with a cell phone./Please don't post photos online that include me. My privacy is very important for me.

  • So if you take a photo of me, you are committing a crime as long as you do not have the written consent by me to share my personal data with Facebook? Great APP!
    – user6109
    Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 15:38
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    @Daniel I'm not a lawyer, but I don't think it's a crime.
    – user510
    Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 15:45
  • Using WhatsApp is, in Germany, as you are submitting the phone-number of other people to them (without their consent). I think a picture is also considered personal information.
    – user6109
    Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 15:48
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    This is why, in my answer, I linked to the study from the Belgian University (and many articles all over Europe say the same) : FB is cheating and twisting around many points of EU laws, they had, and have, many times been sued. Still going on, to be continued...
    – OldPadawan
    Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 18:32
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    @Fildor Right. (Didn't mean to contradict.)
    – user510
    Commented Oct 13, 2017 at 9:23

Sometimes being to the point is good. Just tell him that you don't like photos of you being posted on the Internet without you being asked first. Fussy or not, it is something that you don't like and it should be respected.

You don't have to be aggressive about it. Just have a serious conversation and say that this thing bothers you and you'd like them to respect your wish not to see pictures of you uploaded without your permission.


This is doable. Tell your friend that you don't like having your photos online, and that you need him to not post them. Now some of this falls on you ... you have to either bow out of group photos altogether, or arrange that two shots be taken, one with you and one without.

Once your crew gets used to this, it'll be just your weird quirk. We all have 'em.


Take the friend aside and explain succinctly and privately. Obviously, the picture-poster is not a horrible person, they just didn't know your preference. Be willing to admit that you have the unusual perspective among your social set and clarify your boundaries:

I love that we're friends, and I'm honored to be part of the photos of your private memories. But I'm very conservative about where my image appears on public forums like social media. I'd really appreciate it if you would avoid posting any picture I'm in, or edit me out. And no worries if you accidentally post me - just please take it down when you notice it happened. I'll never be offended if you ask me to step of a picture because you want to post it online.

Then, as picture taking happens, quickly ask "are you guys posting it online?" and if so, enthusiastically offer to be the one HOLDING the camera! :) Now you know you won't be in it. As another poster said - since are you the one who wants the unusual thing, realize that you probably need to step out of ALL heavily shared group shots - once there's 10-20 people in a picture, you won't really be able to talk to everyone that shares it to control the digital flow.

As time goes on, you may well get teased about being unusual. People like to tease. It happens. The key is to take it stride and try to avoid rising to the bait or getting annoyed. If you can joke back about it, so much the better.

Lastly, I'll highlight some of the other postings - you can try to minimize your digital footprint, for sure, but you won't eliminate it. So it is a question of how hard you want to fight this fight. It IS nearly impossible to fully eliminate an image once it's posted - you can limit it's scope of publicity, but it's never fully 100% gone. Similarly, because you are part of the fabric of other people's lives, your friends WILL haphazardly mention you in their own postings. This is a sad part of life in a digital age, and about the only way you can eliminate it completely is to have an extremely non-digital lifestyle.


In my experience you only have to assert your feelings on this matter ONCE and then people will remember, so if you feel strongly about this it is definitely worth building up the courage and doing something about it.

Just to briefly share my experience, my wife and I did not want poor quality, awkward looking photographs being taken at our wedding and posted on social media, so we had an announcement made before the ceremony began stating our request. It didn't ruin any friendships, and two years later people STILL check with us before uploading any photo taken of us or our daughter.

It shouldn't be a difficult conversation to have. Don't direct what you have to say at any one single person, make it clear this is your decision and it applies to everybody. Something like: "I've become concerned recently about online photographs and I have decided I want to be more selective about what photographs of me are posted on social media. I'd like it to be my choice if and when a photo of me is shared publicly and so I'm asking everybody I know if they would respect this choice and remove any photographs of me from their own accounts. Would you do that for me please?"


I don't like when someone posts my photos in Internet too. But I think there's only one way to avoid it: don't take pictures with people who probably will post this out in Internet. But if your friends take pictures of only you, you can just ask them not to post them.

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