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Big Brother is watching you! But don't watch him!
February 4, 2009 4:44 PM   Subscribe

Police do it to the British public 24/7/365. It has become pervasive in the UK and shows little sign of changing. Apparently, however, Joe Blogs may find that his rights may be greatly compromised when photographing Police or even criminals.

With big question marks hanging over the efficacy of CCTV coupled with their increasing sophistication are we sacrificing too many of our human rights as well as our privacy for little to no real gain?
If we can see an event in public, should we not be able to make a record of that event? For art? For an aide memoir? For historical documentation?
Unlike Orwell's 1984 seems Big Brother is actually camera shy.
[Previously on MeFi]
posted by Don't_deceive_with_belief (48 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
After reading all the stuff about UK "police state" complaints on MeFi in the past, I had the weirdest dream last night. I was somewhere in the UK for some reason, and a cop approached me and three of my friends with a tally sheet of all the times we had cursed since he'd been watching us. He said we were in a "curse-free zone" and that we were going to be charged $20 (yeah, American money) for each time we had cursed. We were baffled.

We paid him. After he walked off, I said, "No wonder people complain about this on Metafilter."
posted by Nattie at 4:50 PM on February 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


At first, I thought "it" was going to mean "stick penis into".

This is getting really fucked up, though- how those in power can record everything we do in public, yet practicing sousveillance can result in you eating a billyclub sandwich.
posted by dunkadunc at 5:04 PM on February 4, 2009


Let's not make this an inclusive "we". UK does it because they are a shitty country. In the US you can still take pictures of whatever and post them on the youtubes.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 5:33 PM on February 4, 2009


if public cctv should exist at all, it should be 100% accessible to the public with no special access for police
posted by thetruthisjustalie at 5:34 PM on February 4, 2009 [7 favorites]


From the criminals link:
A man after having his family harassed went to take pictures of those harassing them and is threatened by those persons with death which from what I understand could be considered assault under the legal definition. The police are called by those harassing the man and the officer tells him its assault to take pictures of youths. What in no way is that assault under the legal definition. That is ludicrous, that a officer supposedly informed of the law(so they can enforce it, I mean how else would they be able to do their jobs) basically tells the victim that he is the criminal.

Well if taking pictures is assault than they citizens on all the cities in the UK must being viciously assault every day when they go outside and are filmed(thats like 24 pictures a second!) by CCTV cameras and apparently now even officers walking the beat.

The funny thing is the murder rate per capita for Canada and the UK are very close and Canada has nowhere near the type of CCTV surveillance that the UK has.

Although Toronto put some CCTV cameras downtown last year as a pilot project, but this as far as I know is not widespread. I'm not thrilled with this direction because I like not being constantly filmed wherever I go. I mean isn't being able to track me through my credit card usaged enough.
posted by Sargas at 5:39 PM on February 4, 2009


In the US you can still take pictures of whatever and post them on the youtubes.

Bullshit. In the USA you'll be arrested or threatened with arrest for taking photographs of... well, many, many things. Government buildings, of course, but also public sculptures, Amtrack stations, tall buildings, cops, and so on.

Sargas: it struck me the other day, what with being at a popular public attraction where many tourists were taking photographs, that there's simply no protection against surveillence. Many of those photos will show up on Flikr, they'll be parsed by the TIA/CIA/FBI/etc using facial recognition software, and regardless how private I thought my visit was, The Powers That Be undoubtedly know exactly where I was and what kinds of things I was doing.

Ugh. It's a little ill-inducing.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:47 PM on February 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


yet practicing sousveillance can result in you eating a billyclub sandwich.

Also known as a "hickory stick shampoo".
posted by 445supermag at 5:53 PM on February 4, 2009


Hey companies are already checking your social networking pages why not the government. Also in somehate similar news Google is getting into the game by tracking your every movement, granted it will be optional(for now).
posted by Sargas at 5:53 PM on February 4, 2009


Sargas

You read that wrong, but it's not surprising since the Daily Mail likes to make non-sequitar truths out of disparate statements. From what I gather from the article the teenager made a claim that the householder had made an assault, which didn't happen, and the CSO told the householder that he a claim of assault had been made against him and ALSO he wasn't allowed to take photos of the teenagers in the street, which is just wrong. Whether this is just the DM making stuff up for the hell of it, or a very inexperience CSO, is not clear.

That claim aside Urban75 has a good recent update on what you should look out for if you're taking photos on the streets of London.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 5:55 PM on February 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


*somewhat*
Why,why,why didn't I hit preview!
posted by Sargas at 5:55 PM on February 4, 2009


I'm Shocked, shocked that police don't want to be photographed/videotaped while on duty.
posted by Mitheral at 6:20 PM on February 4, 2009


For those in the US: There may also be good reason to believe that these trends are not necessarily localised to the UK, more that it is the UK where they are most visible.
posted by Don't_deceive_with_belief at 6:48 PM on February 4, 2009


if public cctv should exist at all, it should be 100% accessible to the public with no special access for police

I'll put this idea here so I can claim it: about 10 years ago I had this idea for a dystopian story based on that claim. I imagined a world where crime was rampant to warrant cameras on every street, and after a court ruled that all CCTV feeds were public, a corporation starts broadcasting live crime and murder 24 hours a day to the populace. Of course, it becomes the hottest show on television. But then the ratings drop when crimes drop. And so the corporation takes matters into it's own hands....
posted by ALongDecember at 7:26 PM on February 4, 2009 [6 favorites]


"Police do it to the British public 24/7/365"

I think you basically summed it up right there.
posted by jellywerker at 8:19 PM on February 4, 2009


ALongDec: Or, rather, crime rates go exponential as every dumbshit and boob wants to get their fifteen minutes of fame on the almight television.

I mean, hey, you've seen what passes for television these days, right? "Reality" shows, gross-out contests, stupid-ass "survivor" shows, every damn form of personal degradation imaginable, and people line up to participate.

Yah, I've no doubt that with public CCTV, the murder rate would go up.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:36 PM on February 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Police do it to the British public 24/7/365

Well, unless they're shooting innocent people.
posted by dirigibleman at 8:39 PM on February 4, 2009


In New York a guy got arrested by Amtrak police for taking pictures of Amtrak trains for ... an Amtrak photography contest. Sounds like I made it up, but I didn't.
posted by asusu at 8:44 PM on February 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'll put this idea here so I can claim it

It's a little like The Running Man, but if you write it, I'd be interested in buying the film rights.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:58 PM on February 4, 2009


The talking lampposts in Headingley with Jimmy Saville's voice take the creepiness just that bit farther.
posted by Grrlscout at 12:46 AM on February 5, 2009


Who watches the watchmen?
posted by brevator at 2:31 AM on February 5, 2009


If you'll excuse the self-link, some coppers don't seem to mind being photographed overly much.
posted by idiomatika at 2:45 AM on February 5, 2009


Who watches the watchmen?

Indeed!
posted by Don't_deceive_with_belief at 2:56 AM on February 5, 2009


Police do it to the British public 24/7/365

That's why I only visit the UK in leap years.
posted by DreamerFi at 3:35 AM on February 5, 2009


The talking lampposts in Headingley

I had forgotten about those! They no longer vocalise, *unfortunately*.

The police went to 'unusual lengths' to suppress a film in which they appeared last year;
The police, who are not shown in a good light in the film, intervened to stop the movie's premiere at a cinema in Brighton, and since then police officers and council officials have been paying calls to venues across the country where On the Verge (so called because the smashEDO protesters were confined for a while to a narrow grass verge opposite the factory they were targeting) is due to be shown, suggesting that it is not a good idea to show the film.
posted by asok at 4:17 AM on February 5, 2009


Bullshit. In the USA you'll be arrested or threatened with arrest for taking photographs of... well, many, many things. Government buildings, of course, but also public sculptures, Amtrack stations, tall buildings, cops, and so on.

Hmm. I live in the US, and have taken/take photos of all of those things, and have never been arrested or threatened with arrest. So, at least in my case, you are wrong. It appears, contrary to prevailing belief, the United States is not yet Airstrip One.
posted by IvoShandor at 5:17 AM on February 5, 2009


Of course, I'm not saying it doesn't happen. I would, however, still be surprised if someone had evidence of any type of conviction resulting from such over-zealous, and obviously illegal, arrests.
posted by IvoShandor at 5:22 AM on February 5, 2009


norabarnacl3 can take the credit for turning this into a retarded US v UK clusterfuck. Well done you.
posted by MrMustard at 5:37 AM on February 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


and that's why birds do it, bees do it
even edu-ca-ted fleeeeeees do it
let's do it, let's put the population under surveillance
posted by doobiedoo at 6:01 AM on February 5, 2009


In the US you can still take pictures of whatever and post them on the youtubes.

You can photograph anything you like from your designated free speech cage.

God, "sousveillance." Please.
posted by mobunited at 7:06 AM on February 5, 2009


Hmm. I live in the US, and have taken/take photos of all of those things, and have never been arrested or threatened with arrest. So, at least in my case, you are wrong. It appears, contrary to prevailing belief, the United States is not yet Airstrip One.
posted by IvoShandor at 8:17 AM on February 5 [+] [!]


No, he's not wrong, you're just exceptionally lucky. Even down here in the south my roommate got harassed by transit cops for drawing a sketch of the train platform. Lots of people have experienced the same thing for photography in other major urban areas.
posted by Ziggy Zaga at 8:30 AM on February 5, 2009


Excuse me if I'm wrong, but doesn't Germany also have a law against photographing police? Are there other nations that also prohibit it?
posted by Timberman at 8:53 AM on February 5, 2009


If the police aren't doing anything wrong, then they've got nothing to worry about.
posted by RockCorpse at 9:13 AM on February 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Timberman, I don't know about that, but a recent visiting German student told me that the prevalence of CCTV was the most noticeable thing to him in the UK in how it differs from Germany. He also claimed that CCTV that watches public areas is prohibited in Germany. Some quick research indicates it to be far more complicated than this. I found the PDFs here and here interesting.
posted by 999 at 9:34 AM on February 5, 2009


I wouldn't give a shit about CCTV if the cameras had little screens showing what they were focused on. I realise they can't because then PAEDOPHILES could see the blackspots and touch children while the attention was diverted, but otherwise it'd take away my complaints. If you're in public, you're in public.

When they train them into women's bathrooms, though, that's another thing entirely.
posted by bonaldi at 11:01 AM on February 5, 2009


Let's not make this an inclusive "we". UK does it because they are a shitty country.

Thanks for that reasoned treatise in international relations.
posted by greycap at 11:57 AM on February 5, 2009


I wonder if the Lords saw this thread? Looks like they share your concerns.
posted by Jakey at 2:44 AM on February 6, 2009


Well, all these CCTV images don't stop crime and aren't always watched due to staffing. So there's hope for us poor subjects...
posted by gonzo_ID at 2:58 AM on February 6, 2009


You Are Being Watched
posted by homunculus at 3:19 PM on February 6, 2009


You Are Being Watched

Evidently only the trees are being watched.
posted by ALongDecember at 3:32 PM on February 6, 2009


Evidently only the trees are being watched.

That's because they're looking for a notorious eco-terrorist.
posted by homunculus at 5:37 PM on February 6, 2009


Spy centre will track you on holiday
posted by homunculus at 7:59 PM on February 8, 2009


London police demand that new pub owner installs a CCTV as a licensing condition
posted by homunculus at 12:00 PM on February 9, 2009


NYPD Cuts Cops, Keeps Spycams for Terror Defense
posted by homunculus at 9:51 PM on February 12, 2009


As of yesterday it is now illegal to photograph British police
posted by homunculus at 9:20 AM on February 17, 2009


Former MI5 chief: Government exploits terror fears to restrict civil liberties
posted by homunculus at 9:21 AM on February 17, 2009


No Photo Ban in Subways, Yet an Arrest
posted by homunculus at 2:42 PM on February 18, 2009


homunculus: "As of yesterday it is now illegal to photograph British police"

Now how could that possibly be abused?
posted by Mitheral at 8:33 PM on February 19, 2009


Britain's no-photographing-cops law: even the cops hate it
posted by homunculus at 9:44 AM on February 22, 2009


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