Have you ever skimmed a real estate website out of curiosity, only to find a picture of your home? If you check out Google Street View you’ll also probably see an image of your home there. (If you’re lucky, you won’t see yourself in the image picking your nose.) It might be unsettling to find that someone has taken a photo of the exterior of your home, but is there anything you can do? So, Is it illegal to take pictures of someone’s house without them knowing? The answer might surprise you.
Is it illegal to take pictures of someone’s house without them knowing?
No, it is not illegal to take a picture of the outside of someone’s home so long as it is taken from a public place. That’s because there is no expectation of privacy in public. If the exterior of your home is visible from the street, anyone is free to photograph your home. In fact, any part of your home, including the interior, that is visible from the street can be photographed. Much like with the question of if you have to show your receipt at Wal-Mart, taking a photo of someone on private property may not be a great idea.
That said, there are a number of exceptions that may apply regarding the legality of taking pictures of someone or their home.
Exceptions to the Rule
Like with most legal issues, there are some exceptions to the rule regarding photographing another person’s home without their permission. These exceptions can vary depending on where the photograph was taken from as well as how the photo is ultimately used.
The most important consideration is whether or not you took the photo on private property or not. If you trespass on the property of a homeowner, you are already breaking the law. And if you take a photograph of private property while trespassing, you will find yourself in further trouble.
The rules discussed thus far have dealt entirely with photographs intended for personal use. The use of a photograph for commercial purposes, even if it is taken in public, is a different story. There are a number of issues that you could encounter with a commercial photo. For starters, using the likeness of another person for commercial purposes without their consent can lead to a civil lawsuit.
Finally, it is one thing to take a photograph of another person’s home while in public. But in some states, you could face criminal charges if you linger or are acting with criminal intent. For example, it is possible to be charged under Arkansas law if you surveil a person outside of their home with the intent to harass. According to the statute, it is unlawful to:
Places a person under surveillance by remaining present outside that person’s school, place of employment, vehicle, other place occupied by that person, or residence, other than the residence of the defendant, for no purpose other than to harass, alarm, or annoy.
The laws of each state are different, but photographing the home of another person solely for the purpose of annoying or harassing may fall under a harassment statute. So is it illegal to take pictures of someone on private property? While it can depend on the circumstances, the answer is usually yes.
Harassment – The act of regular and unwarranted actions of one individual or group on another individual or group.