business insider

Business Insider published a handy guide informing people about their legal rights to take photos in public while advising people it wouldn’t be wise to stand up for those rights if challenged by authority figures.

The writer was also sure to remind us that the Department of Homeland Security has been doing its best to inform police about our Constitutional rights, but somehow, the message hasn’t reached what he describes as a “small minority of police officers who will make headlines for their misconduct.”

Perhaps Christopher Snow was referring to the headlines at Business Insider that tend to focus on business and technology rather than police misconduct, but anybody who reads Photography is Not a Crime with any regularity knows that statement to be absolutely laughable.

Snow informed readers that yes, we do have the right to photograph TSA checkpoints, but only until we are told we don’t have that right, which is when we should dutifully stop taking photos.

Ultimately, it’s probably better not to push your luck on this one, and all it takes is a little common sense to avoid trouble. Snap away in public areas, don’t try to take shots in more sensitive ones, and put the camera away if an official asks you to. After all, the TSA screening line isn’t terribly photogenic anyway.

What Snow fails to acknowledge is that we are not photographing or video recording TSA checkpoints for its aesthetics. We are doing it to remind the government that we have the right to record them as they record us. And we are doing it to keep them from stealing our personal items as well as from groping our private parts any more than they have to.

Even CNN has acknowledged they are not the most trustworthy government agency.

Snow also comes across very naive when referring to the Department of Homeland Security, referring to a 2010 memo – which was actually a result of a lawsuit settlement  – while failing to acknowledge the DHS and FBI have continued encouraged police departments to view photography as a “suspicious activity.”

The Department of Homeland Security clearly could not care less about your Flickr portfolio, but it still wants police and other government agents to know about your rights. A 2010 memo distributed by the department to law enforcement agencies nationwide upheld the pre-existing law that officers and security personnel must allow individuals to photograph the exterior of federal facilities from publicly accessible spaces.

And here is what Snow had to say in regards to recording cops in public.

Ultimately, it’s a small minority of police officers who will make headlines for their misconduct; the rest are there to protect and serve. But before pressing your luck by getting in an officer’s face with a camera, ask yourself how much your rights are worth to you in that particular moment.

A founding father might say, “My rights are my life!” That’s cool and all, Ben Franklin, but most of us would really rather avoid jail today, regardless of who’s at fault legally.

If it were true that the “rest are there to protect and serve,” then we shouldn’t have to fear standing up to the occasional cop who hasn’t received the purported DHS memo because we would be assured that this cop’s supervisor would quickly set him straight and release us without further detainment.

But we know that’s rarely the case.

Snow also said that we have the legal right to photograph refineries, but we shouldn’t do so because it might piss somebody off, not to mention that refineries are not very picturesque to begin with.

We don’t get it, oil refineries have to be the least photogenic subjects we can possibly imagine. Why risk a few touchy cops crying terrorist? For what, smokestacks? Yuck.

Again, Snow misses the point. First of all, who is he to decide what is photogenic? Second of all, perhaps somebody might have other reasons to record a refinery, like, I don’t know, perhaps to document the poisoning of the air we breathe.

I’m sure Snow meant well with this article but if he’s so agreeable to police officers when he knows his rights are at stake, then wouldn’t he be just as agreeable to the companies whose cameras he reviews, which is what he mainly writes about?