D'Arcy from Winnipeg
Solution Architecture, Business & Entrepreneurship, Microsoft, and Adoption

Don’t Take Pictures of Busses in London

Saturday, April 18, 2009 12:29 PM

Have you seen these men?


This is a picture of Klaus “Spectacles” Matzka and his son, uh…Son-of-Spectacles!

Klaus and his son, tourists from Austria, were visiting London. As tourists will do they took pictures of various things, including double decker busses and the Vauxhall bus station, which does look pretty kewl:

Alas, all the picture taking was for naught. Klaus eventually encountered some police officers who erred on the side of paranoid caution and determined instead of innocently taking pictures they were somehow doing something more sinister. From the original article on the Guardian website:

But the tourists have said they had to return home to Vienna without their holiday pictures after two policemen forced them to delete the photographs from their cameras in the name of preventing terrorism.

Matzka, a 69-year-old retired television cameraman with a taste for modern architecture, was told that photographing anything to do with transport was "strictly forbidden". The policemen also recorded the pair's details, including passport numbers and hotel addresses.

Not surprisingly, Matzka has decided to cross London off his future travel plans after such a negative incident…and rightfully so. While I understand that authorities need to protect their citizens, that protection should not allow those authorities to overstep the boundaries established. And I’m not just talking about the pictures being deleted, which just paints the London officers in an imbecilic light (Just because you delete a file, on a memory card or on a hard drive, the file isn’t actually *gone* and it can be recovered).

The bigger concern is how Matzka will be treated if he were to return to the UK. The officers took down his passport number…but what did they do with that information? Did they enter it into their system? Does that information get entered into any other authorities’ database? If he tries to cross the border, will he be questioned further because some police officer thought he may have been insidiously taking pictures of London travel targets?

And what recourse would he have to clear his record? If the London police determine that the officers truly were out of line in their actions, will they willingly ensure that anything recorded in respect to Matzka and his son will be wiped out? Or will this be permanently etched into their records? For the elder Matzka this may not be as much of an issue as it is for his 15 year old son who may want to travel to the UK at some point in his life.

London has every right to police their society in the way they best see fit. If officers are being given directives to scrutinize people more closely, fine. But its in the best interests of the authorities to ensure that scrutiny is done in a reasonable way and to ensure that anything done in error is corrected or risk being painted as having authorities ok with terrorizing tourists. How ironic…



# Traveling in London

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