I received a lot of feedback on two recent posts about Massachusetts State Police photographing — and tweeting — anti-surveillance protesters. An email from Chris Snyder struck me as particularly thoughtful.
Glad you’re looking closely at the implications of the MSP tweets with the photos of the anti-surveillance photos. Since MSP has really been ramping up its tweeting recently, it’s a good “checkpoint” time to think about responsible usage.
My initial take on the photos was that MSP was doing a public service by informing the public 1) that a protest was happening in the vicinity of the Esplanade, 2) that MSP was there to observe, not to interfere (I’m assuming that’s true — it was my takeaway from the tweets, anyhow, so it’s possible MSP left out certain details from their tweets...), 3) that MSP was not concerned that the protest would adversely affect the festivities, and 4) that the protests were in keeping with the spirit of the day.
If anything, I think MSP taking the photos brought more publicity to the protests than would’ve otherwise happened, given that most people were only paying attention to fireworks that day, and that one of the photos captured the “No Warrant No Search” sign that seemed to sum up the protest’s main goal. I thought it was courteous of MSP to post the phtoos, rather than pretend that nothing was happening.
The privacy concern does seem valid, and I don’t profess to know how police use photography of protests. But these photos would have been equally at home on a Boston Globe reporter’s Twitter feed, or something retweeted by Universal Hub, and police would’ve had just as much info from such photos. I think the MSP photographer did a good job selecting photos that conveyed the event from a news perspective.
Now, if they had taken video... that unconstitutional “anti-wiretap” law is still on the books, right? That would have been ironic with the cases that have been winding through the courts.
I think Snyder does a good job of capturing the nuances here — the technology and standards are still emerging. But I would still like to hear from the state police themselves about their policy and practice.
I have now heard from two of the protesters photographed, and neither were happy that their pictures were tweeted out, and both told me they were unaware that they were being photographed by police.