Wednesday 12 October 2011

Suspicious Photo?

Suspicious photo? Potential Terrorist? Of course not.

When does a family photo stop being a family photo? The answer is when it turns into the image that fuels a PR disaster. Yes, yet again there has been a case of photographer equals enemy of the state, this time at a Glasgow shopping centre. Yet again the terrorism laws have been cited and abused in the name of privacy.

The crime in question was for a dad to photograph, using his mobile phone, his daughter enjoying her ice cream. Staff instantly reported this activity as suspicious. They called security, who called the police which finally led to one idiotic police officer threatening to delete the Dad's family photo under the misguided believe he could do so under terrorism legislation - you actually need a court order to do that in the UK. The photograph had already been posted on Facebook so it was too late anyway.

A Facebook campaign combined with extensive coverage on Twitter and the news websites turned a ice cream photo into a major pr disaster for the Braehead Shopping centre. There's been so much criticism aimed at Braehead that Capital Shopping Centres, who own the Braehead centre, have even decided to change their policy on photography within the 11 shopping complexes they own around the UK. If they had acted in a more thoughtful  and subtle way in the first place, all of the furore that ensued could have been avoided. Yet again it seems to be poor training and communication compounded by ill-informed security and police who abuse laws set up to protect the public. It needs sorting out!

The questions that have to be asked are why do public places impose such stupid rules in the first place? Why is it OK now to take photographs in the Braehead shopping centre when it wasn't before? A public place where families and friends meet up and they expect no one to take photographs during their visit? It seems a ridiculous thing to ask in an age where most people carry a mobile phone capable of taking images or video.

Privacy is an important issue for us all, but more and more it seems the rules are bent, abused or applied in situations that just make a mockery of the law. Is a shopping mall a private place? I would say not. What is even more ironic is the fact that the Braehead Shopping centre is probably bristling with CCTV cameras (like most of the UK) watching the shoppers for 'security' purposes. Where is the privacy in that?

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