Wednesday, February 18, 2009

New crimes, future crime, future freedom ?

I took the following picture on his mobile phone last week, as I had a few minutes to kill before a meeting. It shows the defunct Woolworths and soon to be defunct Marks and Spencers above in Woking.

But what I wasn't expecting was to be challenged by a security guard and told that you couldn't take pictures inside the shopping centre ( though pictures of shop windows were OK ), but I was.

He was very polite, friendly and even apologetic so I thought there was no point in giving the messenger a hard time.

But this is where things are going. Because you could carry out a crime you are now being prevented from certain actions. The business of photographing police officers is another example. (This will provide an almost universal clause for harassment to be justified of photographers when ever law enforcement want to).

However, it would be churlish not to admit their are future problems. What if people uploaded pictures of police officers on the Web - future face recognition software could provide instant identification and cross referenced the home addresses of such people, leading them wide open to intimidation.

The only problem with this line is that it applies to all of us, and the most likely organisation to do it is the state. Access to state information is being ever increased and we have to assume that criminal or other illegal organisations would find it little trouble to access this information.

The surveillance society isn't going to go away. What we need is a new way of living with it and keeping our freedom. The luddite refusal to accept change isn't working, so what we need is a better legal and dare I say it consitutional frame work.


Rich Tee said...

Shopping centres are private property so the owners can decree that no photos be taken if they want to, as far as I know.

This is a disadvantage of private property which the free marketeers keep quiet about.

What some people worry about is that shopping centres are part of a trend towards the "privatising of public space".

Man in a Shed said...

You've got a point there. Though you have to assume that kids with phones are taking pictures in there all the time.

an ex-apprentice said...

"What some people worry about is that shopping centres are part of a trend towards the "privatising of public space"."

No, you were right the first time, shopping centres are private property.

The point, surely, is the trend towards following every initiative, guidance, best practice, or code, mindlessly without once asking if the action being proposed is necessary, sensible or proportionate.

The other problem is that security guards would not be able to target their attention on, lets say, muslims, since that would be discriminatory. Hence Mr Shed gets idiotically accosted.

Anonymous said...

The proliferation of CCTV is something we're pretty much stuck with. One of the issues is how long that information is kept, who controls it and to whom it is passed, whether legally or illegally. Openness and transparency are needed but the ICO doesn't have the resources or the balls to do much about these issues.

On a recent trip a few miles up the road I counted over 100 CCTV cameras - and they were the ones I could see as I went about my business. That's a local place, not a city centre like Birmingham, Manchester or London.

This "government" is obsessed with watching everything you do and monitoring the things it cannot see (just search for Phorm on my blog and you'll see what I mean) so they can carry on with their agenda of criminalising everyone.

Shopping centres are private property so the owners are entitled to ask people not to take photographs. Maybe a legal eagle out there can give an opinion of the legality of such a request? Generally I've found that if I'm taking a photo of something funny or can prove that I'm not "casing the joint" then security staff are polite and sometimes ok with the photo being taken.

I mean, if I was a terrorist I would have something much better and less obvious than a camera phone, wouldn't be taking photos of funny signage and giving people the url of my Flickr account!