Chris White, 45, has become the latest victim in a trend in the United States (here) and England cracking down on citizens taking pictures in public. In White’s case, he was simply taking pictures of his daughter at a shopping center in Glasgow, Scotland when he was detained as a possible terrorist threat.
Security guards threatened to confiscate White’s camera when he refused to delete the photos of his 4-year-old daughter, Hazel, eating ice cream at Braehead shopping center. He was specifically held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
The officer only allowed him to retain his camera after recording White’s personal details, including name, place of birth, age, employment status and address.
The mall spokesman notably did not express regret over shoppers being forced to delete pictures and detained as possible terrorist threats. Instead, he said that an exception could be made for taking pictures of your own children. “Like most shopping centers, we have a photography policy in the mall to protect the privacy of the staff and shoppers. However, it is not our intention to — and we do not — stop innocent family members from taking pictures.” So, taking pictures in a mall is now a presumptive terrorism threat unless you can show you have a child in the picture.
The crackdown on public photography is part of a general attitude that more and more conduct must be done by permission as opposed to a presumption that conduct is lawful. It is a dangerous shift for any society when one must take leave or ask for the privilege to take public pictures, including of your own children. The result is a sense of continual control by authorities, living one’s life by permission or leave of the state.