With the warmer months now here, and especially the outdoor swimming pools opened, I feel the need of a re-post as this is a topic that needs to be known and remembered.  (Original post dated June 2015)


On Saturday 24heures ran an article on regulations of photographing people in public space, in this case within the area of public swimming pools. Yes, that includes photos of own children. Based on this regulations, dated back to decades ago, it is forbidden to take photos at all – though the article also explains that in practice it really depends on the circumstances (Does the child wish to be photographed? Does the child know the photographer? etc)

I posted the link to the article on Lausanne Mom facebook page and it turned out to be popular, with over 1,000 facebookers seeing it on their newsfeed. Obviously, not so many knew about this regulation, and I was not surprised. I myself had only known this a few years ago.

Most Swiss are very careful with their recorded personal information. You may find it odd that a Swiss would strip down naked in a sauna among strangers or even colleagues, but do not let anyone take a photo while he/she is walking down the street fully clothed. The difference is the former is not recorded and the latter is. Honestly in this era of social media over-sharing, I have to agree with this attitude.

The regulation, as already mentioned, dated back decades ago. In general these actions below require consent:

  • Taking a picture of a person in a public space
  • Publishing pictures of a person in a public space
  • Commercial use of a published picture of a person in a public space

A bit more info as well as a list of countries with specific consent requirements can be found here. (This is also a good list to consult when you are traveling to another country and plan to take photos there.)

With this regulation, it also means that officially we are not allowed to take photos of, for example, the friends of our child at a birthday party in our home unless they or their parents give us consent. But of course in practice it’s usually not as strict for taking the photos – just be careful when posting it on the internet, even on a facebook account that is set to only “friends”.

For myself, for a few years now I have stopped posting children’s photos on my facebook other than my own. I posted photos of my birthday kids on my personal facebook account, but not of our little guests. I also blurred all identifiable faces from the photos on the blog, including my own children’s. Whenever possible, I shot photos with no one on it, although you may then wonder why all restaurants I recommended were empty 😉 I do this as I understand how bothered someone (especially a Swiss) could be when someone is taking a photo with him/her inside the frame. If you have lived here long enough you may remember how a few years ago Google had to painstakingly blur all faces and licence plates from their Street View in Switzerland (info).

It is common to Swiss public schools to ban all photos of their pupils and schools, especially when any data is linked to the photo (i.e. name and location of school). So, don’t, I repeat DON’T tag the photo to the school facebook page. Don’t make a digital photo out of a printed photo of the class to post on social media. If the activity or sport clubs your children are attending ask you for permission to take photos, do reply to their email or hand back the coupon (even when you say no) as they need these as prove of your consent (or lack of).

Those of you who like to share may feel all these regulations are too much. I may also feel the same if I didn’t find a photo of me and my son in another blog who copied my entire blog post including all the photos three years ago. My son was actually looking down on the photo so his face was not visible, but my heart still skipped a beat. Our photo had been used by a stranger! Not in bad way, but still! Thankfully that blog went down after a few months. Then we have heard scary stories from blogger fashion photos made into T-shirts by Zara (here), a family photo into an advertisement (here), or stolen Instagram photos sold as art piece for $90k a piece (here). And those are not even the worst.

You may come from a country whose people like to take photos of and share everything – I understand this as I’m Asian! 🙂 but while in Switzerland, we need to respect the local regulations.