Fears that photographs of people posted and distributed online may breach data protection rules have forced privacy chiefs to draw up specific guidelines on the matter.

Earlier this year the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) had planned to include online photography in a general code of practice, released in response to the spiralling distribution of digital information on the internet.

However, photography was not addressed in the code because the privacy watchdog deemed it deserving of further attention.

Amateur Photographer (AP) has learnt that the ICO is now investigating the issues surrounding photography and plans to publish specific ?guidance? on the matter via its website.

AP understands the guidance will address the issue of photographs of people captured in a public place and later posted online.

An ICO spokesman told us: ?We receive quite a few calls from people who are concerned whether their photographs are being used appropriately.?

The spokesman added that members of the public are also worried about whether it is legal for images published on social networking websites such as Facebook to be shared elsewhere.

?We found there is a range of issues which need to be looked at and need further clarification,? the ICO spokesman said.

Last year the ICO told us it treats images published on social networking websites, such as Facebook, as ‘personal use’ – in a similar way to ‘family albums’ – and therefore not in breach of data protection regulations.

However, it also urged photographers to adopt a ‘common sense’ approach.

The watchdog stressed that, although background shots of passers-by will not normally breach the Data Protection Act, images of a small group of clearly identifiable people, sent for publication to a newspaper website for example, may be considered an infringement.

In this situation, according to the ICO, photographers should ask themselves whether the subjects would object to their picture being published in this way, and consider blurring their faces.