There are people in this world who do not want to be seen; They are hiding. Funny tho since there are millions of cameras everywhere across the U.S., and if they want to find you they will.
What if Weegee had adhered to this mindset of deleting photos when somebody didn't approve? We would not have his incredible document of New York City in the middle 20th century.
Weegee was also a paid photojournalist/freelance ie professional photographer... not just a guy with a camera and attitude itching for a silly fight.
Ultimately, it will have to be a personal decision of a person holding the camera. The bottom line is, the law says people have no expectation of privacy in public areas. But - think of this... there are people with problems we can't even imagine, let alone think in their shoes. Some are just plain strange. It makes no difference if it's real or percieved - pain they feel is the same - just because someone took their photograph.
In some cases, people live in constant fear of real life threat but they can't stay home because they have to make their living and actually live.
Most of us take photographs for our enjoyment. It doesn't kill me to dump a roll or push the delete button. Street photography isn't something I do, so I rarely encounter these situations. If someone is in the frame and prominently enough, I usually ask first.
I read somewhere, even photo journalists sometimes hesitate and not take the photograph because they feel the pain themselves. Whether that makes a good person or a bad journalist, I don't know.
I think there is a real problem discussing topic of this nature. Other than the OP, we don't know how the conversation really took place. Other than the woman, no one knows why the photograph (which she didn't appear...) was percieved so damaging. Of course all the folks responded don't have any of these information and the discussion becomes concentrated on how our rights were violated. In reality, there were a lot more going on when the event actually transpired.
I consider the "law" the last line of defence, not the first. There are a lot we can do without being illegal. There are a lot of damage we can cause while staying legal. In these situations, I prefer to enjoy my hobby while causing no harm to others - real or perceived. How much margin one wants to keep is really a personal decision.
I said everything I can say here so I'm out of this thread. I don't plan to change anyone's mind. Just wanted to present something some may not be aware - when discussing our rights to photograph in public places.
"Prowling at Night" is in the Criminal Code.
All comments here are, of course, referenced to Canadian law.
EDIT: Monito has already posted an excellent link about Canadian law:
I assure everyone here that I: 1) I am not some badass photographer just itchin' for a fight; 2) the woman was NOWHERE NEAR the angle of my lens or in any part of the composition that would lead any reasonable person to believe they would possibly be in the picture; my camera was pointed towards the top of the Flatiron Building, which is at least 25 stories high; and 3) I tried to very politely tell her that she was mistaken about being in the line of fire of my shooting. I only told her that she should stay home when it was VERY clear that she was trying to pick a fight with me and that she had a right to privacy and was sick and tired of photographers trying to take pictures of her.
Upon further reflection after reading some of the responses here, I do believe that she was truly a sad, borderline schizophrenic person who I somehow feel had this conversation numerous times before she had it with me. Especially after she told me she that she was fed up with photographers.
As to people's desire for privacy in public - of course I can respect that. But this, alas, does not equate to a right to privacy. I wasn't trying to take a picture of her. But even if she was in the picture, and not the subject of it, my right to photograph trumps this is NY, especially because I am not using the picture for trade or advertising reasons.
As to the exterior of buildings being protected by copyright in parts of Canada - really? Wow.
Also note that some places, such as some provinces in Canada (Manitoba and Quebec for sure, there may be others) have "privacy laws" that make it illegal to use someone's indentifiable image for profit, regardless if that image was taken on public property.
For instance, where I am in Manitoba, the Privacy Act specifically prohibits using someone's likeness "for gain" without consent. To my knowledge this hasn't been tested in court here yet (although the Quebec law was tested in Quebec a few years ago with a woman who was shot as part of a crowd, that shot was hung in a gallery, and the woman didn't appreciate it and won in court). I know a few street photographers here who basically just ignore the law for now.
So, as far as I see it, it is legal to take someone's picture on public property in most places, but it may not be legal to do anything with that picture once you've taken it, depending on the law where you live (and/or where the pic was taken), and if anyone is "identifiable".