UK: You Can't Photograph Sensitive Buildings; Photogs: Which Are Sensitive? UK: That's Classified

from the catch-22 dept

Boing Boing points to the rather ridiculous news that certain "sensitive" areas of the UK are banned to photographers, but when The British Journal of Photography tried to find out which "sensitive" sites to avoid, the request was rejected. Apparently even telling you what sites you can't photograph is too sensitive. Of course, that leaves photographers in a bit of a Catch-22, as they don't know whether or not a site is photographable until the police tell them they can't photograph it and they may have violated some law in doing so. But... of course, with no list to check on, the police can simply claim any building is off-limits. On top of that, as Cory Doctorow points out:
There's no evidence that terrorists use photographs to plan attacks. Indeed, if disclosing the visible features of notable, iconic buildings puts them in danger, we may as well tear them all down now and get it over with, since the whole point of a notable, iconic building is that everybody knows what they look like.
Blind paranoia with a healthy dosage of security theater doesn't stop terrorism. Update: A good comment from Nigel (though, with unnecessary nastiness towards us) goes into more detail explaining what's happening. It's not specifically that photographing certain sites is barred, but that the police have extra powers for search and seizure in certain areas -- and taking photographs is more likely to get police involved in those areas. It's those areas that are considered classified. So, not quite the same thing as the original report, though close. Thanks for the clarification, Nigel!


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Rob, Jun 15th, 2009 @ 6:33am

    Wow... this is beyond bad. I thought that the U.S. was getting bad, but this is insane. I know some will step up and say that I should not care about what laws England wants to pass, but it really is only a matter of time before a bogus report surfaces showing how this new law has prevented 142,523,643,126.4 terrorist attacks and ends up being adopted in the U.S. In the words of Benjamin Franklin -- "Those who would sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither"

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2009 @ 6:42am

    Blind paranoia with a healthy dosage of security theater is the goal of terrorism...

     

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  3.  
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    NullOp, Jun 15th, 2009 @ 6:45am

    Can you blame them...

    I guess having London damn near leveled in WWII sort of leaves the Brits gun-shy. Sirens in the middle of the night with bombers overhead, V1 and V2 rockets striking with little or no warning leaves a lasting impression as to what terrorists can do. The U.S. had a small taste of it on 9/11.

     

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  4.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 15th, 2009 @ 6:56am

    Re: Can you blame them...

    If fear of V-Rockets and goose-stepping idjits is what precipitated this government mandate, then the award for slowest moving, most lumbering beauacracy goes to the UK

     

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  5.  
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    John Doe, Jun 15th, 2009 @ 7:00am

    Even if the terrorists do use photographs, they can always take their own. It would be easy enough to take a picture of buildings without people knowing you are doing it. After all, a tiny pocket cam can take a very good pictures these days. You don't have to have a large DSLR with a 2 foot long lens to get a picture detailed enough for terrorist activities.

    Do the illustrious leaders of this world ever stop to think things through before enacting laws?

     

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  6.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Jun 15th, 2009 @ 7:06am

    As the UK becomes more and more like a totalitarian government, I couldn't help but think that no one in the country was reading Orwell's 1984 anymore. Now I'm thinking they're reading it too much, as a guide.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2009 @ 7:37am

    Re: Can you blame them...

    what are you on about? that has nothing to do with photos of buildings.

     

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  8.  
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    Romeo, Jun 15th, 2009 @ 7:39am

    Reminds me of a "American Dad" PSA... look it up...

     

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  9.  
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    Greg, Jun 15th, 2009 @ 8:07am

    This is an obvious attempt to revive the artist programs in schools. With photo's being off limits all of the terrorists will simple enroll in sketching classes.

     

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  10.  
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    imfaral (profile), Jun 15th, 2009 @ 8:14am

    I wonder

    if this applies to just having the building in the background. If it does that opens up a whole new can of worms.

     

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  11.  
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    UK Boi, Jun 15th, 2009 @ 8:39am

    Coppers too

    This also goes for the Police as well now. You are NOT allowed to photograph any Police, even tho they are allowed to photograph you.

    Welcome to 1984, Papers please citizen.

    Be glad you have constitution over there guys & gals coz I'm afraid the UK just plain sucks over here.

    If you want to really know how bad it is over here i recommend a visit to:

    http://bastardoldholborn.blogspot.com/

    Though be warned, this site is now KNOWN to be monitored by our stazi government. I suggest you "proxy" to it.

    Edit: Just read "Ima Fish". pretty much sums it up over here.

    Peace out

     

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  12.  
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    Murray, Jun 15th, 2009 @ 8:48am

    Can't photograph

    They seem to a overly cautious in the UK compared the U.S. I've not run into problems as of yet. But if I remember correctly, they have several thousands of cameras in the London area. Hmmm...

     

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  13.  
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    Silent Bob, Jun 15th, 2009 @ 9:09am

    what about...

    Google Earth?

     

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  14.  
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    Stuart, Jun 15th, 2009 @ 9:12am

    It's the whole world

    It is about 40% fucking idiots, 50% bitch ass "progressives" that that think every bodies opinion is worthwhile and 10% really p[issed off fuckers about to give up.

     

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  15.  
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    Michael L. Slonecker (profile), Jun 15th, 2009 @ 9:16am

    Re: what about...

    Google Street View (wherever villagers have not run the Google vehicles out of town) in conjunction with Google Earth?

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2009 @ 9:28am

    Don't you see? If they keep the list of buildings that can't be photographed secret, the terrorists won't know which buildings to blow up. Genius!

     

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  17.  
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    Nick Sharratt, Jun 15th, 2009 @ 9:35am

    A cunning plan

    If all photographera went out and started photographicing all buildings in the UK, we could probably shoot them all in a few months-then, whichever ones the police don't object to could be deemed 'safe' for ever more- those which are objected too should then be published as a list (Inc the photos) so we can recognize which ones not to photograph...best ensure we have lots of pics from every angle of the sensitive ones just so we can recognize the building from any angle. That will solve things. Simple. ;-) *cough wikileaks*

     

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  18.  
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    Nigel (profile), Jun 15th, 2009 @ 9:38am

    Don't let the facts get in the way Techdirt

    Cory is being a little sensationalist, and in summarising him TechDirt have gone beyond sensational into flat out wrong.

    No areas of the UK are banned to photographers and there's no list of buildings you can't photograph (although I imagine some of our military bases wouldn't be too welcoming, but that's not what we're talking about here).

    What there is is a law, Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which allows the authorities to designate areas in which police have enhanced stop and search powers.

    This is not aimed specifically at photographers and AFAIK there is no suggestion that a Section 44 designation prohibits the taking of photographs in the area. However in practise someone taking photographs in an area is more likely to attract the attention of a bored or over zealous constable than someone just passing through, and is thus more likely to be stopped and searched using Section 44 powers.

    Thus the BJoP were trying to find out where in the country Section 44 powers are currently in force, and it is this information which has been denied.

    This does obviously raise a serious problem, but it's not the one your article suggests - if I as a citizen cannot find out where Section 44 powers apply how can I know if a PC claiming to be exercising those powers is telling the truth?

    There's plenty to criticise about this and other UK anti-terrorism laws and the more people that hear about it the better, but inaccurate articles like this one help nobody.

     

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  19.  
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    Nigel (profile), Jun 15th, 2009 @ 9:39am

    Don't let the facts get in the way Techdirt

    Cory is being a little sensationalist, and in summarising him TechDirt have gone beyond sensational into flat out wrong.

    No areas of the UK are banned to photographers and there's no list of buildings you can't photograph (although I imagine some of our military bases wouldn't be too welcoming, but that's not what we're talking about here).

    What there is is a law, Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which allows the authorities to designate areas in which police have enhanced stop and search powers.

    This is not aimed specifically at photographers and AFAIK there is no suggestion that a Section 44 designation prohibits the taking of photographs in the area. However in practise someone taking photographs in an area is more likely to attract the attention of a bored or over zealous constable than someone just passing through, and is thus more likely to be stopped and searched using Section 44 powers.

    Thus the BJoP were trying to find out where in the country Section 44 powers are currently in force, and it is this information which has been denied.

    This does obviously raise a serious problem, but it's not the one your article suggests - if I as a citizen cannot find out where Section 44 powers apply how can I know if a PC claiming to be exercising those powers is telling the truth?

    There's plenty to criticise about this and other UK anti-terrorism laws and the more people that hear about it the better, but inaccurate articles like this one help nobody.

     

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  20.  
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    Paul Brinker (profile), Jun 15th, 2009 @ 9:49am

    "Sir, you cant photograph this building, please give me your camera so I can remove the images"

    "What building can I photograph?"

    "I cant tell you that sir, its illegal"

    "under what law?"

    "I cant tell you that sir, its also illegal"

    "Sigh, what would you charge me with if I were to take a photo of the building over there?"

    "Braking the law sir, please move on"

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    NullOp, Jun 15th, 2009 @ 11:08am

    Peace in our time....HA!

    The Brits don't want a repeat of anyone taking advantage of them easily. The reference to WWII, see Wikipedia if you haven't heard of it, is a reference to those that would tear down what they have built. NOT a reference to the Nazi party specifically.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2009 @ 11:59am

    Re:

    Then shouldn't they "release" a list of buildings to "protect" that they actually want destroyed.

     

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  23.  
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    Sean T Henry (profile), Jun 15th, 2009 @ 12:39pm

    Re: Don't let the facts get in the way Techdirt

    "No areas of the UK are banned to photographers and there's no list of buildings you can't photograph (although I imagine some of our military bases wouldn't be too welcoming, but that's not what we're talking about here)."

    I do not think that is quite true. A few years ago a student from Northern Kentucky University who was on a study abroad trip in London that compared the US legal system to the parliament. When on the trip the student took pics in the subway (it is not allowed signs are posted although). When he arrived at the next stop the police were waiting for him. He was escorted to a back room for questioning and had him pictures confiscated, a little while later he was released with a warning and threat of jail if it happened again.

     

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  24.  
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    JoeNYC, Jun 15th, 2009 @ 12:45pm

    Thanks Nigel

    It's nice to have a few facts instead of knee-jerk reacting sensationalists.

     

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  25.  
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    JoeNYC, Jun 15th, 2009 @ 12:45pm

    Thanks Nigel

    It's nice to have a few facts instead of knee-jerk reacting sensationalists.

     

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  26.  
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    Paul Brinker (profile), Jun 15th, 2009 @ 1:55pm

    So what stops people from using direct to flicker program on there fancy iphone to take photos? Trying to stop photos other then with guards guns and walls is a silly thing.

    Now if your using a 2 foot lens to zoom in on a military base from a hill overlooking the base then someone might have something to say, but even then there is little to stop your immages from going right to flicker (or even to a large email list) Film is just a good backup now.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 15th, 2009 @ 3:40pm

    Re: Can you blame them...

    I guess having London damn near leveled in WWII sort of leaves the Brits gun-shy.

    Their apparently low appreciation for personal liberty makes we wonder if the US shouldn't have just let the Nazis have them. If this is the way they're going to be, then what the hell did all those US soldiers die for defending them?

     

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  28.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 15th, 2009 @ 5:37pm

    Re: Don't let the facts get in the way Techdirt

    Added a link to this comment in the post. Thanks for adding some useful details.

     

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  29.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 15th, 2009 @ 6:10pm

    Re: Re: Can you blame them...

    "If this is the way they're going to be, then what the hell did all those US soldiers die for defending them?"

    You mean, besides the fact that most of the Nazi leadership had banking and funding interests in England that would have allowed them to wage war against America?

     

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  30.  
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    Nigel (profile), Jun 16th, 2009 @ 1:30am

    Re: Re: Don't let the facts get in the way Techdirt

    Thanks for highlighting my comment in the post. In retrospect I could have been a bit nicer; glad you could see past the snark :)

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Chris, Jun 16th, 2009 @ 8:51am

    Re: Re: Re: Don't let the facts get in the way Techdirt

    Nicer? Come now - that isn't going to help Techdirt reduce the volume of of sanctimonious drivel it posts, is it? Keep up the snark levels and perhaps it'll start checking facts instead of lecturing from afar...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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