Full-kit wa*ker Jeremy Browne avoids Google cameras by wearing full veil in public
JEREMY Browne MP, minister for crime prevention at the Home Office, has been captured by Google Street View walking along a street in Paddington. He calls it “unnerving“. The Liberal Democrat MP for Taunton Deane, is not emerging from a massage parlour nor eating a kebab and smoking. He is suited, booted and holding his bright red ministerial box. He is the political equivalent of the Full Kit Wan**r, a title used to explain a grown man who is happy to be seen striding around in public wearing a full football kit; shirt, shorts, socks, even shinnies – the whole kit and caboodle. Professional footballers have been FKWs too, notably a former Spurs and Manchester United player who used to wear his full England tracksuit to walk around parts of urbanised Essex.
Says Browne of the bright red box:
“I think there is an issue about the intrusiveness of modern technology,” he said. “It is why the government is right to be alert to the public concern about excessive use of CCTV. We need to get the balance right with using technology to prevent crime and people not feeling that every time they enter a public space their movements will be potentially permanently recorded.”
“Campaigners are always most alert to the threats to individual liberties that can be caused by the state. But we also need to be guarded about how the evolution of technology means that private organisations can also intrude into individual privacy in a way that many people would find unsettling. Quite often the state is more regulated than private organisations.”
What about when the Government works in cahoots with Google and other big internet firms to spy on us?
Al nonsense, of course. You can no more stop Google taking photos in the street than you can prevent anyone with a camera snapping away. Unless in the pursuit of freedom, that’s what Browne wants, to prevent anyone from taking a picture of what they like?
In 2009, the Indy reported:
Chief Constable Andy Trotter, chairman of Acpo’s media advisory group, took the decision to send the warning after growing criticism of the police’s treatment of photographers.
Writing in today’s Independent, he says: “Everyone… has a right to take photographs and film in public places. Taking photographs… is not normally cause for suspicion and there are no powers prohibiting the taking of photographs, film or digital images in a public place.”
He added: “We need to make sure that our officers and Police Community Support Officers [PCSOs] are not unnecessarily targeting photographers just because they are going about their business. The last thing in the world we want to do is give photographers a hard time or alienate the public. We need the public to help us.
“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.”
Section 44 of the Terrorism Act allows the police to stop and search anyone they want, without need for suspicion, in a designated area. The exact locations of many of these areas are kept secret from the public, but are thought to include every railway station in and well-known tourist landmarks thought to be at risk of terrorist attacks..
One photographer wrote of his experience:
As soon as I had taken a shot, PC Smith (40144) came out from the train station and asked to speak with me. She asked why I’d taken a photo of her van. I told her that it was parked in a disabled bay. She told me that she’d been called because a woman was self-harming on the station and that was the only place she could park…
I asked her why she wanted the photo to be deleted, she told me that “in the current climate” the police had been asked to stop people from taking photos of sensitive buildings and of the police.
That isn’t true – and I told her so.
She was told by her superior that she could take down a description of me. I told her that asking to delete photos was silly because they can be easily undeleted. I also thanked her for not escalating the situation. I left. As I left, I allowed my phone to post the photo I’d taken to twitpic.
And there was this man:
Phil Smith thought ex-EastEnder Letitia Dean turning on the Christmas lights in Ipswich would make a good snap for his collection.
The 49-year-old started by firing off a few shots of the warm-up act on stage. But before the main attraction showed up, Mr Smith was challenged by a police officer who asked if he had a licence for the camera.
After explaining he didn’t need one, he was taken down a side-street for a formal “stop and search”, then asked to delete the photos and ordered not take any more.
There are many more examples of this sort of harassment. In 2008, Jacqui Smith, the then British Home Secretary, wrote:
First of all, may I take this opportunity to state that the Government greatly values the importance of the freedom of the press, and as such there is no legal restriction on photography in public places…Also, as you will be aware, there is no presumption of privacy for individuals in a public place. Decisions may be made locally to restrict or monitor photography in reasonable circumstances. That is an operational decision for the officers involved based on the individual circumstances of each situation. It is for the local Chief Constable, in the case of your letter the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Force, to decide how his or her Officers and employees should best balance the rights to freedom of the press, freedom of expression and the need for public protection.
So. Harass away. One photographer wrote:
“Is there something wrong with my car or my driving? No, no sir, nothing like that at all, we are responding to an emergency call from someone in The Sundial who has reported you as taking pictures of children in the play park Play park? I haven’t been near any play park! I’ve been on the beach and in the fairground, and I’ve never been anywhere near The Sundial either, surely you must have the wrong person? Sorry sir, but we tracked you on the CCTV cameras, got your registration number and that’s why I need to talk to you, you are exactly as described”
Amateur Photographer magazine gave away free lenscloths decorated with the Photographers’ Bill of Rights.
But Browne is shocked. The remedy might be for him to take charge of how he looks by carrying a plain bag and wearing a veil in public, saving his face for his eyes only…