I have been researching street photography rights in the US, specifically Portland Oregon, and from what I have learned, it seems to be that if it's not a place where people have a reasonable expectation of privacy, photography of people is okay. Examples given on Wikimedia Commons were rooms inside someone's house, or even just a tent on the beach.

What officially, is the definition of which places are okay for photography in the United States?

  • You're asking for a singular definition of something within a country that often defines things differently between towns, let alone states, let alone what federal law will say.
    – user4657
    Oct 17, 2016 at 1:55
  • @Nij - The city I'm thinking about is Portland Oregon, United States. I don't know which at which level the specific law would come from.
    – margalo
    Oct 17, 2016 at 2:11
  • That's my point. You say "in the United States" but that's simply not possible because there are three levels of overlapping jurisdiction and many of those at the same level have different, often nonequivalent definitions. If you mean just one specific place, say that specific place, but be prepared to have the question closed as too specific (and note that currently it may be too broad).
    – user4657
    Oct 17, 2016 at 2:13

1 Answer 1


Let's deal with the somewhat misguided notion of "public space": what it means and what it doesn't:

  1. "publicly owned" is not equivalent to "public space" - Camp David is "publicly owned"; it is not "public space".
  2. "privately owned" can be "public space" - the publically accessible parts of shopping malls are privately owned public spaces.
  3. "public space" does not mean you have unconditional access. Access may be limited or subject to restrictions placed on it by whoever has lawful authority over it. For example, the aforementioned shopping mall is not public when the mall is closed, roads may be closed for maintenance, street festivities or emergencies etc.


  1. if you are in a place where you have permission of the lawful authority to be (public spaces give you this implicitly, private spaces require explicit permission), and
  2. the lawful authority has not placed restrictions on photography, and
  3. the subject does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy (like they would in a public toilet), and
  4. the subject matter is legal (e.g. considering restrictions on sexual or commercial activities), then

you can take photographs.

  • being on a toilet seem like an obvious example of a reasonable expectation of privacy... for less obvious cases, what makes a location have a reasonable expectation of privacy?
    – margalo
    Oct 17, 2016 at 3:18
  • law.stackexchange.com/questions/11373/…
    – Dale M
    Oct 17, 2016 at 3:57

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