Banning photography reduces our security

Yet another story has surfaced about the authorities being overly heavy handed in response to photography. This time, it a Japanese man threatened and detained because he was taking photos from the window of a moving train. There are two important responses to this trend. The first is to stress that it is useless for security purposes. If there is a situation in which taking a photo would help a terrorist to achieve their objectives, no enforceable anti-photo policy will deter them. Anyone willing to plan or undertake a terrorist attack will be able to tolerate any punishment that could conceivably be imposed for taking photos. They are also likely to be able to take photos in a way that will not be noticed: either with sneaky hidden cameras or with a simple camera phone or by developing an awareness of when the authorities are watching. Banning photography in places like vehicles and bridges punishes photography enthusiasts and serves no security purpose.

Secondly, the ability to take photographs is an important check against the abuse of authority. Without the infamous videotape, it is likely that the Rodney King beating would never have received public attention and that the officers involved would have been able to lie their way out of the situation. Similar abuses, such as the inappropriate use of tasers, have been appropriately documented because people present had the capability and initiative to make a recording. Photos, videos, and other recordings can provide a vital record of interactions with authority: both allowing people whose rights are abused to provide evidence and allowing frivolous claims to be dismissed. A security force that is serious about good conduct and oversight has nothing to fear and much to gain from a bit of public surveillance.

More generally, banning photography is symptomatic of the demise of open society. While there are legitimate security risks that exist and reasonable steps that should be taken to protect against them, reducing oversight and individual liberty both undermines the very things we are trying to protect and creates new risks of abuse at the hands of modern society’s burly new enforcers.

[Update: 15 November 2007] This post on Classical Bookworm, about a recent incident at the Vancouver airport, highlights how important it is for private citizens to be able to record the actions of police and other security officials.

Related posts:

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

53 thoughts on “Banning photography reduces our security”

  1. Mama Don’t Take My Kodachrome

    By fandango_matt on rights

    Your Rights As A Photographer: As most of us are no doubt aware, the right to take photographs in the United States is being challenged more than ever–people are being stopped, harassed, and even intimidated into handing over their personal property simply because they were taking photographs of subjects that made other people uncomfortable. Recent examples have included photographing industrial plants, bridges, buildings, trains, and bus stations. Print and carry this pamphlet in your wallet, pocket, or camera bag to give you quick access to your rights and obligations concerning confrontations over photography. [via]

    Related: UK Photographer’s Rights Guide, NSW (Australia) Street Photography legal issues, and the Legal Handbook for Photographers.

  2. Busted

    By Sylvia

    There was an incident at the Vancouver airport one month ago. Four big white guys jumped a new immigrant to Canada, killed him, and then claimed it was self-defense. If not for a bystander who videotaped the whole thing, they would have gotten away with it. Oh, did I mention that the four guys were policemen?

  3. Video Release Shames Vancouver

    The video of the Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, age 40, being tasered to death at the Vancouver airport was released this weekend. I’d expect something like this to come out of the U.S. (certainly the U.S.-led occupation in Iraq) but to see this man tasered to death by the RCMP in Canada is astonishing (Dziekanski’s own actions are also unsettling). The footage was captured by a civilian with a camcorder that was then taken by the police, who refused to return the tape.

  4. Tasered man’s last moments

    Globe and Mail Update

    November 14, 2007 at 10:18 PM EST

    VANCOUVER — Astonishing video footage released yesterday shows Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski did not resist police or confront them before officers zapped him with a taser, setting off a struggle that ended in his death in the international arrivals area of Vancouver’s International Airport.

    The footage, shot by Victoria resident Paul Pritchard, was released to the news media yesterday and widely broadcast, providing a raw look at events that have prompted a furious debate in B.C. about the police use of tasers.

  5. The debate isn’t security versus privacy. It’s liberty versus control.
    You can see it in comments by government officials: “Privacy no longer can mean anonymity,” says Donald Kerr, principal deputy director of national intelligence. “Instead, it should mean that government and businesses properly safeguard people’s private communications and financial information.” Did you catch that? You’re expected to give up control of your privacy to others, who — presumably — get to decide how much of it you deserve. That’s what loss of liberty looks like.

    It should be no surprise that people choose security over privacy: 51 to 29 percent in a recent poll. Even if you don’t subscribe to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it’s obvious that security is more important. Security is vital to survival, not just of people but of every living thing. Privacy is unique to humans, but it’s a social need. It’s vital to personal dignity, to family life, to society — to what makes us uniquely human — but not to survival.

    If you set up the false dichotomy, of course people will choose security over privacy — especially if you scare them first. But it’s still a false dichotomy. There is no security without privacy. And liberty requires both security and privacy. The famous quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin reads: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” It’s also true that those who would give up privacy for security are likely to end up with neither.

  6. The War on Photography

    What is it with photographers these days? Are they really all terrorists, or does everyone just think they are?

    Since 9/11, there has been an increasing war on photography. Photographers have been harrassed, questioned, detained, arrested or worse, and declared to be unwelcome. We’ve been repeatedly told to watch out for photographers, especially suspicious ones. Clearly any terrorist is going to first photograph his target, so vigilance is required.

    Except that it’s nonsense. The 9/11 terrorists didn’t photograph anything. Nor did the London transport bombers, the Madrid subway bombers, or the liquid bombers arrested in 2006. Timothy McVeigh didn’t photograph the Oklahoma City Federal Building. The Unabomber didn’t photograph anything; neither did shoe-bomber Richard Reid. Photographs aren’t being found amongst the papers of Palestinian suicide bombers. The IRA wasn’t known for its photography. Even those manufactured terrorist plots that the US government likes to talk about — the Ft. Dix terrorists, the JFK airport bombers, the Miami 7, the Lackawanna 6 — no photography.

  7. US ‘cell assault’ video released

    US prosecutors have released video footage of a sheriff’s deputy striking a 15-year-old girl and throwing her onto a cell floor.

    The video is evidence in the case against Washington state Deputy Paul Schene, accused of using excessive force against the girl in November.

  8. Police brutality
    The camera is mightier than the sword

    Apr 16th 2009
    From The Economist print edition
    Mary Poppins’s best friend assaulting demonstrators

    DESPITE the threats to destroy capitalism and hang the bankers, the real hero of London’s G20 demonstrations on April 1st may turn out to be an American fund manager. The anonymous capitalist accidentally filmed a policeman assaulting Ian Tomlinson, a newspaper vendor who was making his way home through the protest. Mr Tomlinson was clubbed from behind with a baton and shoved to the ground as he walked away from a line of officers, hands in his pockets. He subsequently died of a heart attack.

    Just as the shock of that footage was receding, another video nasty emerged. In it a woman at a vigil for Mr Tomlinson on the following day is slapped and baton-thwacked by a different officer. The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is now investigating both cases. Given that most of the 5,000-odd protesters had cameras, more may well emerge.

  9. Fake DHS “photography license” for fake no-photos laws
    By Cory Doctorow on Happy Mutants

    All around the world, cops and rent-a-cops are vigorously enforcing nonexistent anti-terrorist bans on photography in public places. If you’re worried about being busted under an imaginary law, why not download these templates and print yourself an imaginary “Photography license” from the DHS? Who knows if it’s legal to carry one of these — probably about as legal as taking away your camera and erasing your memory card for snapping a pic on the subway.

  10. US police fired over beating film

    Five US police officers in Birmingham, Alabama have been fired for beating an unconscious suspect who had crashed his car in a police pursuit.

    The attack on Anthony Warren took place in January 2008, but police video footage has only just been made public.

    It was uncovered in March by prosecutors preparing a case against Warren for assaulting an officer, for which he was later convicted.

    Officials said other officers had seen the video but never reported it

  11. Sussex cops try to suppress publication of damning traffic-cam photos by claiming copyright

    By Cory Doctorow on politics

    The Sussex, England police are trying to suppress publication of images from speed cameras — images that show technical shortcomings in the cameras — by claiming that they are copyrighted. Copyright is meant to protect creativity; I’m not sure who the aggrieved artist is meant to be here. Is there some tortured constable who spent hours on a ladder getting the composition of the camera’s shots just right?

    “It has been brought to our attention that the photographs from the Gatso camera, produced for your recent court case, have been published on website,” Sussex Police Solicitor Alexandra Karrouze wrote to Barker in a June 28 letter. “The content of these photographs are the property of Sussex Police and publication of them is a breach of copyright. They should be removed from the website forthwith. If they are not removed further action may be contemplated.”

    Sussex Police did not send any copyright notice to TheNewspaper, nor did Karrouze respond to requests for clarification and comment. The agency became particularly upset with Barker in May after he threatened legal action against the Sussex Speed Camera Partnership for insisting that he had been speeding even after his court acquittal. The agency had no choice but to issue a swift apology.

  12. YouTube video sparks uproar at Western

    Shows what appears to be six campus police holding a man down and periodically punching and hitting him

    Anna Mehler Paperny

    Toronto — Globe and Mail Update Published on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2009 10:56AM EDT Last updated on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2009 1:06PM EDT

    A video of several campus police beating a suspect pinned to the floor of a campus building at the University of Western Ontario is causing an uproar after it was posted to YouTube Wednesday.

  13. Famous architecture photographer swarmed by multiple police vehicles in London for refusing to tell security guard why he was photographing famous church

    By Cory Doctorow on waronphotography

    A crack squad of London cops — three cars and a riot van — converged on a famous architectural photographer who was taking a picture of Christopher Wren’s 300 year old Christ Church spire. Grant Smith, the photographer, refused to tell a Bank of America security guard what he was doing (he wasn’t on B of A property) and so the guard called in the police. When the police arrived, Smith was searched and questioned under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act.

    Last week, the Association of Chief Police Officers issued a stern warning to British police officers to stop using Section 44 to harass photographers, saying, “Photographers should be left alone to get on with what they are doing. If an officer is suspicious of them for some reason they can just go up to them and have a chat with them – use old-fashioned policing skills to be frank – rather than using these powers, which we don’t want to over-use at all.”

    Apparently, the message hasn’t been received.

  14. “A camera, as a weapon, suits my fighting style much better than a gun or knife or stick. It poses little threat to children or innocent bystanders. It’s difficult for even me to endanger myself with one. And cameras require no special training to use (I did have to ask my twelve-year-old to show me how my cell phone’s camera worked). Best of all, cameras force people to stop focusing on how their violent behavior is making them feel at the moment, and consider how it is making them look, to others. When your intended victim turns a camera on you, you’ve lost control of the fight. It’s not just the two of you anymore. Whether your tantrum shows up on YouTube or CNN or in a court of law, everyone is going to see you doing this. Can you explain it? Can you justify it? Do you think you’re going to get away with it? Perhaps it’s the mom in me that wants to confront attackers with these questions, rather than blowing holes in them. “

  15. Police investigate their own in assault posted on YouTube

    Victoria Police Department is investigating a 56-second YouTube clip appears to show one officer repeatedly kicking a man who’s already been restrained

    Victoria — The Canadian Press Published on Wednesday, Mar. 24, 2010 6:50AM EDT Last updated on Wednesday, Mar. 24, 2010 6:54AM EDT

    The Victoria Police Department is investigating its own officers after a violent arrest was caught on camera and posted to YouTube.

    Police spokesman Sgt. Grant Hamilton says officers responded to a fight involving eight males early Sunday morning. He says when police arrived on the scene, they found one man being kicked in the head and ended up taking six others into custody.

    But the 56-second YouTube clip appears to show one officer repeatedly kicking a man who’s already been restrained.

    The officer then yells at another male to get down on the ground and when the man complies, the officer and a fellow policeman allegedly kick him in the stomach and back.

    Sgt. Hamilton says the office of the police complaint commissioner has been notified and is monitoring the investigation, which will be led by the force’s professional standards section.

    Sgt. Hamilton says the man who was kicked in the head was taken to hospital but has since been released and is not co-operating with police. The six men who were taken into custody were released without charges.

  16. Ottawa joins the war on photography

    Cory Doctorow at 8:27 AM March 24, 2010

    “The city of Ottawa has launched a security campaign funded by Transport Canada (federally) that asks people to report any ‘suspicious behaviour’, which includes photographers and sketchers. They explicitly list ‘An individual taking photos or pictures […], drawing maps or sketches’ as things to report. My friend Sarah Gelbard teaches in the Architecture department at Carleton University in Ottawa. She had her students do a project on transit in the city last year. They all went to transit stations and took reference pictures to help plan out their projects. Security stopped and questioned several of them. And this was before this new campaign. I’m afraid what might happen now if people started calling in the “suspicious behaviour” of students taking photos of a transit station.”

    Good to see the Anglo-American stupid creeping up to Canada. I suppose if terrorists were precision bombers who had to place their charges to the millimetre in order to succeed, this would make sense, but given that no one’s ever shown that terrorists attacks involve carefully photographing the attack-site (as opposed to simply walking up to it, finding a likely spot, and blowing up), this is simply a good way of absorbing police/security time that could be spent chasing actual bad guys.

  17. “This Thursday a year will have passed since Ian Tomlinson died after being assaulted by a policeman at the G20 protests. No charges have been brought; no one has been punished. Despite 300 official complaints about the policing of the protests on April 1st, and plenty of video and photographic evidence, no officer has faced serious disciplinary proceedings. Those who removed their identification numbers, beat up peaceful protesters and bystanders, then repeatedly lied about what had happened remain untroubled, either by the law or their superior officers. There has been no apology to Tomlinson’s family.

    Contrast this with another case, in which a Nottinghamshire police officer caused two deaths in June. As soon as it happened, the police reported themselves to the Independent Police Complaints Commission and launched their own investigation. A chief superintendent told the press that “we will certainly take any lessons we can get from this process and make sure we put them in place so this sort of thing never happens again. It has caused immense sadness and immense shock.” The papers carried pictures of officers paying tribute, saluting the flowers left outside police headquarters. There was no cover up, no botched post-mortem, no lies about the victims or their families. The officer responsible was quickly charged and, though his victims died as a result of neglect not assault, last month he was convicted over the deaths.

    There’s a significant difference between the two cases: the Nottinghamshire victims were dogs. The officer had left two police dogs in his car and forgot about them while he completed some paperwork. Judging by their response to these two tragedies, both police and prosecutors appear to care more about dogs than human beings.”

  18. London cops enforce imaginary law against brave, principled teenaged photographer

    By Cory Doctorow on Action

    Two police officers stopped a teenaged freelance photographer from taking pictures of police cadets marching in an Armed Forces Day in London. The officers claimed (incorrectly) that it was against the law to photograph minors without parental consent. Then they pushed him down a set of stairs and detained him. The photographer recorded the incident, including the officers claiming that they didn’t need any law to detain him.

    Jules Mattsson, the 16-year-old photographer, is very, very good in this recording. He knows his rights, he admirably keeps his cool as two lawless goons with badges harass him and detain him. Kids like this give me hope for the future of the human race. On the other hand, cops who invent imaginary laws and demand that the public abide by them — after the Association of Police Chiefs has made it abundantly clear that the police must not harass amateur and professional photographers.

  19. “Legally, it’s pretty much always okay to take photos in a public place as long as you’re not physically interfering with traffic or police operations. As Bert Krages, an attorney who specializes in photography-related legal problems and wrote Legal Handbook for Photographers, says, “The general rule is that if something is in a public place, you’re entitled to photograph it.” What’s more, though national-security laws are often invoked when quashing photographers, Krages explains that “the Patriot Act does not restrict photography; neither does the Homeland Security Act.” But this doesn’t stop people from interfering with photographers, even in settings that don’t seem much like national-security zones.”

  20. Facing 16 Years In Prison For Videotaping Police

    “The ACLU of Maryland is defending Anthony Graber, who faces as much as sixteen years in prison if found guilty of violating state wiretap laws because he recorded video of an officer drawing a gun during a traffic stop. … Once [the Maryland State Police] learned of the video on YouTube, Graber’s parents’ house was raided, searched, and four of his computers were confiscated. Graber was arrested, booked, and jailed. Their actions are a calculated method of intimidation. Another person has since been similarly charged under the same statute. The wiretap law being used to charge Anthony Graber is intended to protect private communication between two parties. According to David Rocah, the ACLU attorney handling Mr. Graber’s case, ‘To charge Graber with violating the law, you would have to conclude that a police officer on a public road, wearing a badge and a uniform, performing his official duty, pulling someone over, somehow has a right to privacy when it comes to the conversation he has with the motorist.'” Here are a factsheet (PDF) on the case from the ACLU of Maryland, and the video at issue.

  21. How to Record the Cops
    A guide to the technology for keeping government accountable

    Radley Balko | September 20, 2010

    This summer the issue of recording on-duty police officers has received a great deal of media attention. Camera-wielding citizens were arrested in Maryland, Illinois, and Massachusetts under interpretations of state wiretapping laws, while others were arrested in New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Florida, and elsewhere based on vaguer charges related to obstructing or interfering with a police officer.

    So far Massachusetts is the only state to explicitly uphold a conviction for recording on-duty cops, and Illinois and Massachusetts are the only states where it is clearly illegal. The Illinois law has yet to be considered by the state’s Supreme Court, while the Massachusetts law has yet to be upheld by a federal appeals court. Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler recently issued an opinion concluding that arrests for recording cops are based on a misreading of the state’s wiretapping statute, but that opinion isn’t binding on local prosecutors.

    In the remaining 47 states, the law is clearer: It is generally legal to record the police, as long as you don’t physically interfere with them. You may be unfairly harassed, questioned, or even arrested, but it’s unlikely you will be charged, much less convicted. (These are general observations and should not be treated as legal advice.)

    One reason this issue has heated up recently is that the democratization of technology has made it easier than ever for just about anyone to pull out a camera and quickly document an encounter with police. So what’s the best way to record cops? Here is a quick rundown of the technology that’s out there.

    Cameras without wireless networking capabilities are the least attractive option. If they are destroyed or confiscated, you have probably lost the damning video you just recorded, including the video documenting how your camera was confiscated or destroyed. But provided you can hold on to your camera, digital video recorders today are inexpensive, small, and wonderfully practical. The best-known everyday, easy-to-use brand right now is probably the Flip Video line, which start at $149. Even the cheapest Flips fit in your pocket, power up in about three seconds, and feature one-button recording. They are also easy to use. They include a built-in USB port and instant formatting for sites such as LiveLeak and YouTube.

  22. “Qik and UStream, two services available for both the iPhone and Android phones, allow instant online video streaming and archiving. Once you stop recording, the video is instantly saved online. Both services also allow you to send out a mass email or notice to your Twitter followers when you have posted a new video from your phone. Not only will your video of police misconduct be preserved, but so will the video of the police officer illegally confiscating your phone (assuming you continue recording until that point).

    Neither Qik nor UStream market themselves for this purpose, and it probably would not make good business sense for them to do so, given the risk of angering law enforcement agencies and attracting attention from regulators. But it’s hard to overstate the power of streaming and off-site archiving. Prior to this technology, prosecutors and the courts nearly always deferred to the police narrative; now that narrative has to be consistent with independently recorded evidence. And as examples of police reports contradicted by video become increasingly common, a couple of things are likely to happen: Prosecutors and courts will be less inclined to uncritically accept police testimony, even in cases where there is no video, and bad cops will be deterred by the knowledge that their misconduct is apt to be recorded.”

  23. Kuwait Bans DSLR Cameras Use For Non-Journalists

    “Kuwait has banned the use of Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras in public places for anyone who is not a journalist. The ban, which was passed by the unanimous agreement of the country’s Ministry of Social Affairs, Ministry of Information and Ministry of Finance, prevents the public from using DSLR devices on the streets of the Middle Eastern State. Tourists are to be affected by the new laws and must be aware of this before travelling to Kuwait. Smaller digital cameras and camera phones are exempt from the ban.”

  24. The Kuwait Times, the newspaper that started the false rumor of Kuwait banning DSLR cameras, has posted an update saying that after investigation, it turned out they didn’t verify their information. They have now issued a retraction. Quoting: ‘The newspaper regrets failing to verify the information. The article wrongly stated that a ban on DSLR cameras was implemented by the Ministries of Information, Social Affairs and Finance. This information is false. In a follow up investigation, it was proved that no such ban has been issued. We regret this error and deeply apologize for any inconvenience caused.'”

  25. Apple patents mobile camera that other people can shut off

    An Apple patent describes a system for allowing venue owners to override compliant cameras. The patent describes using an infrared signal that compliant cameras would detect; in the presence of this signal, the device would not allow its owner to activate its record function. It is intended for use at live events and galleries and museums, and it will be a tremendous boon to policemen who shoot unarmed subway riders, despotic armies putting down revolutions as well as anyone else who is breaking the law or exercising coercive power.

  26. When police cars, lightbars on, pulled up outside her house in the middle of the night, a Rochester woman began filming the traffic stop from her front yard. She was arrested and taken to jail by a police officer who first said she was “anti-police,” then claimed to feel “threatened” by her; and ultimately told her that he didn’t have to explain himself at all. Her arrest, which required the officer to enter her property without permission, was on a charge of “obstructing government administration.” [Indymedia]

  27. Jury Acquits Citizens of Illegally Filming Police

    “The Springfield (MA) Republican reports two men accused of illegally filming the process as they bailed friends out of jail that last summer, were acquitted of all charges Tuesday. Pete Eyre and Adam Mueller initially were granted permission to film the bail process, but later were forbidden by jail officials from recording the procedure. When they continued to digitally recording their encounter with jail officials, they were arrested by police. Eyre and Mueller testified that they never attempted to hide the fact that they were recording at the jail. Not only did they ask permission to film the bail-out process — which initially was granted — but their recording devices were ‘out in the open,’ Eyre said. The Jury found the defendants not guilty of three criminal counts: Each was acquitted of unlawful wiretapping, while Mueller also was acquitted of a charge of resisting arrest.”

  28. Experts in use of force shocked by video of Oakland police shooting photographer
    by Xeni Jardin

    A story in the San Jose Mercury News today on the video we published yesterday here on Boing Boing, which shows an Oakland Police officer shooting a photographer with a projectile, for no apparent reason.

    Geoffrey Alpert, a University of South Carolina criminal justice professor who’s an expert in police decision-making and use of force, said the video left him “astonished, amazed and embarrassed.”

    “Unless there’s something we don’t know, that’s one of the most outrageous uses of a firearm that I’ve ever seen,” he said. “Unless there’s a threat that you can’t see in the video, that just looks like absolute punishment, which is the worst type of excessive force.”

  29. “James Fallows writes that you don’t have to idealize everything about the Occupy movement to recognize the stoic resolve of the protesters at UC Davis being pepper sprayed as a moral drama that the protesters clearly won. ‘The self-control they show, while being assaulted, reminds me of grainy TV footage I saw as a kid, of black civil rights protesters being fire-hosed by Bull Connor’s policemen in Alabama. Or of course the Tank Man in Tiananmen Square,’ writes Fallows. ‘Such images can have tremendous, lasting power.’ We can’t yet imagine all the effects of the panopticon society we are beginning to live in but one benefit to the modern protest movement is the omnipresence of cameras (video) as police officials, protesters, and nearly all onlookers are recording whatever goes on bringing greater accountability and a reality-test for police claims that they ‘had’ to use excessive force. ‘What’s new is that now the perception war occurs simultaneously with the physical struggle. There’s almost parity,’ writes Andrew Sprung. ‘You have a truncheon or gun, I have a camera. You inflict pain, I inflict infamy.'”

  30. NY Couple On “Wanted” Poster For Filming Police

    Ben Fractenberg and Jeff Mays write that the NYPD has created a ‘wanted’ poster for a Harlem couple who film cops conducting stop-and-frisks and post the videos on YouTube — branding them ‘professional agitators’ who portray cops in a bad light and listing their home address. The flyer featuring side-by-side mugshots of Matthew Swaye and Christina Gonzalez and the couple’s home address was taped to a podium outside a public hearing room in the 30th Precinct house and warns officers to be on guard against them.

  31. Karen Selick: You have the right to remain silent … and film the proceedings

    What have cops got against cameras these days? Increasingly, people are getting arrested, charged or even assaulted by police officers, merely for attempting to take photos or videos of officers at work. Often, police simply command people to stop photographing. Scared into thinking they must be breaking some law, citizens comply.

    When Polish visitor Robert Dziekanski died after being tasered at the Vancouver airport in 2007, police seized the now famous video made by witness Paul Pritchard, who had to hire a lawyer and threaten court proceedings to get it back.

    The American Civil Liberties Union has won numerous court cases against police who illegally harass photographers and videographers, but says nevertheless: “A continuing stream of incidents … makes it clear that the problem is not going away.”

  32. “The Salt Lake Police department will be much more transparent with their law enforcement. A program is being rolled out to require officers wear glasses equipped with a camera to record what they see. Of course, there are several officers opposed to this idea, who will resist the change. One of the biggest shockers to me is that the police chief is in strong support of this measure: ‘If Chief Burbank gets his way, these tiny, weightless cameras will soon be on every police officer in the state.’ With all the opposition of police officers being recorded by citizens that we are seeing throughout the country, it is quite a surprise that they would make a move like this. The officers would wear them when they are investigating crime scenes, serving warrants, and during patrols. Suddenly Utah isn’t looking like such a bad place to be. Now we just need to hope other states and departments would follow suit. It sure will be nice when there is video evidence to show the real story.”

  33. There is a surprisingly rich and dynamic academic literature developing around the concept of “sousveillance,” a term coined by the University of Toronto professor and inventor Steve Mann to describe privately made recordings that can serve as a counterweight to institutional and government surveillance. Mann is famous for approaching these questions from the perspective of wearable computing, a field in which he is one of the earliest pioneers; his apparent eccentricity is belied by the gravity and lucidity of his writing, which is heavily influenced by Foucault’s views on panopticism:

    One way to challenge and problematize both surveillance and acquiescence to it is to resituate these technologies of control on individuals, offering panoptic technologies to help them observe those in authority. We call this inverse panopticon “sousveillance” from the French words for “sous” (below) and “veiller” to watch.

    Sousveillance is a form of “reflectionism,” a term invented by Mann (1998) for a philosophy and procedures of using technology to mirror and confront bureaucratic organizations. Reflectionism holds up the mirror and asks the question: “Do you like what you see?” If you do not, then you will know that other approaches by which we integrate society and technology must be considered.

  34. Photographing and filming police officers in Canada

    The Ottawa Citizen has a very good editorial on the practice of police intimidation of citizens who use their cellphone cameras and other devices to record the police.

    Here’s a summary of what Canadians should know about this:

    * There is no law in Canada that prevents a member of the public from taking photographs or video in a public place (other than some limitations related to sensitive defense installations);
    * There is no law in Canada that prevents a member of the public from taking photographs or video of a police officer executing his or her duties in public or in a location lawfully controlled by the photographer (in fact, police officers have no privacy rights in public when executing their duties);
    * Preventing a person from taking photos or video is a prima facie infringement of a person’s Charter rights;
    * You cannot interfere with a police officer’s lawful execution of his or her duties, but taking photos or videos does not, in and of itself, constitute interference;
    * A police officer cannot take your phone or camera simply for recording him or her, as long as you were not obstructing;
    * These privileges are not reserved to media — everyone has these rights;
    * A police officer cannot make you unlock your phone to show him or her your images; and
    * A police officer cannot make you delete any photos.

    Yes, you can photograph or video police in public in Canada

    Watching the watchmen

    The fact is, police have no sweeping authority under Canadian law to order people to stop taking pictures or videos of them in public or confiscate their devices without a court order. Certainly, police can arrest anyone who wilfully obstructs them while taking pictures, but even then they have no automatic right to seize the device, much less delete its contents.

    Unfortunately, say observers, too many police think otherwise. And even if they know better, they too often use the excuse of obstruction and the threat of arrest to cover their illegal demands.

    “Increasingly, people are being arrested, charged or even assaulted by police officers, merely for attempting to take photos or videos of officers at work,” says lawyer Karen Selick, who wrote on the topic last week in the National Post. “Often, police simply command people to stop photographing. Scared into thinking they must be breaking some law, citizens comply.”

    “Police are being caught on camera and they don’t like it,” says Carleton University criminologist Darryl Davies. “But contrary to what the police may feel about the use of this technology to record their activities, there is no restriction on people taking pictures.”

    “There is nothing in the Criminal Code that would directly prohibit someone taking pictures of officers in the performance of their duties in public,” says Abby Deshman, Director of the Public Safety Program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. “They can tell you to move away but they don’t have the right to stop you taking pictures.”

  35. $125,000 Settlement Given To Man Arrested for Photographing NYPD

    mpicpp sends word of a $125,000 settlement for a man who was arrested for photographing members of the New York Police Department. On June 14th, 2012, the man was sitting in his car when he saw three African-American youths being stopped and frisked by police officers. He began taking pictures of the encounter, and after the police were done, he advised the youths to get the officers’ badge numbers next time. When the officers heard him, they pulled him violently from his car and arrested him under a charge of disorderly conduct. The police allegedly deleted the pictures from his phone (PDF). Rather than go to trial, the city’s lawyers decided a settlement was the best course of action.

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