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"A stranger took my toddler's photo and I did nothing."

We’ve heard all the stories before. But for this Australian mum, the unthinkable actually happened.

For a moment, I want you to picture this. You’re out in the city enjoying a day with your child. It’s a welcome opportunity to get out of the house and spend some quality time with your little one.

When the day is over you hop onto a regular bus and start heading home. Your child is sitting happily in their pram. Your stop comes and you proceed to get off.

And as you do so, a total stranger takes a photo inside your child’s pram with a high quality camera.

Snap. And it’s done.

You and your child are off the bus before you’ve even realised what’s happened. The stranger is gone, continuing their commute, with photos of your two-year-old in their possession.

For one Australian mum, she doesn’t need to imagine, because this is her horrifying reality. What’s even more dreadful is it could happen to any of us.

Marcia Jane, a Brisbane mother, was on the bus ride home with her two-year-old daughter at about 4:00pm on a weekday when the unthinkable happened.

He took a photo of her daughter without her permission.

“My daughter was sitting in her pram, so she was at the front of the bus facing the rest of the passengers and I sat in front of her. As I stood up to move the pram to get off the bus, a man who sat behind me snapped a picture of my daughter with a camera,” she says.

Marcia believes the man looked to in his 20s and he took the image with a high quality camera.

After the man took the picture, Marcia says she paused, wanting to confront him but did not do so. “I didn't know if I have the right to do so and he appeared like a tourist. I didn't want to cause hoo-ha and delays. The bus driver was exceptionally nice and had got off the bus so he could help me with the pram,” she explains.

Except now that Marcia has had more time to think, she says she feel paranoid about what the photo could be used for. Thinking about recent stories in the media regarding digital kidnapping, seeing children’s images being turned into memes and “whatever nasty things that bad persons would do with a young child's picture,” has caused her great concern.

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“I feel ashamed and angry at myself for not doing anything when I needed to protect my daughter,” Marcia says.

And given the sketchiness of the situation, Marcia isn't quite sure what she should have done, or if she even had the right to.

“I didn't know if I have the right to do so and he appeared like a tourist."

According to the Australian Law Reform Comission, taking photos of children without consent raises issues. In recent times the concerns about unauthorised images and the ease and accessibility of online publication have exploded.

In Marcia's situation, if the man who took the images was a photographer, copyright laws may give him extensive rights over the images and may deny rights to those who were photographed.

It is also more broadly possible to take photographs in a public location without asking for permission. This extends to taking photographs of buildings, sites and people.

The Arts Law Centre of Australia also states there are no publicity or personality rights in Australia, and there is no right to privacy that protects a person’s image.

That being said however, the use or publication may also be illegal when carried out in a certain fashion. For example, the subject of a photograph may seek an injunction to stop the publication of photographs that are indecent, offensive or demeaning.

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner suggest contacting the police if a photo has been taken without your permission. In some situations the police will seize the camera or photography equipment pending further investigation.

What would you do if a stranger took a photo of your child? Would you feel comfortable asking them to delete the photo?

Note: Names in this article have been changed to maintain privacy.

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