What are the rules around posting photos or anything else about other people on social media?

If you post personal information about others as a private individual, you probably will not be breaching the Privacy Act. This is because the Privacy Act generally does not apply to domestic matters. The exception to this is if the subject matter is “highly offensive to an ordinary reasonable person”.

The fact that posting personal details about another person may not be a Privacy Act breach does not mean that you can do so without any consequences. The Harmful Digital Communications Act sets out principles to prevent harm (external link) from certain online behaviours such as cyber bullying, spreading personal information and so on. Depending on the information, and what you do with it, there might also be consequences under the Harassment Act, or you could be sued under the common law for breach privacy, or a breach of confidence.

If a private individual makes a comment about someone else online, it aso generally won’t raise issues under the Privacy Act - unless the content is likely to be highly offensive to a reasonable person.

We would always suggest that even if you’re taking photos of your friends, you should check with them before publishing or posting the photos online. Think about how you’d feel if someone published photos of you without asking if you were okay with it.

However, if an agency or organisation (with a few exceptions – like the news media) has taken photos where individuals can be identified, under the Privacy Act, they must not disclose or publish that photo unless they’ve got consent or another exception applies.

If you’ve found that an agency has taken your picture and posted it online without your permission, you should contact the agency in question to raise your concerns and, if appropriate, ask it to take down the photo. If you’re not satisfied with the agency’s response, and you believe the disclosure of your photo in this way has caused you harm, then you may be able to make a complaint about this to us.