It would appear I’m late to the scene on this one, as a number of people responded to my facebook status expressing surprise that I was stopped by a mall cop at Chinook for taking pictures. Apparently this is a wide spread and not at all uncommon ‘policy’ in malls and stores.
If I’d been in a store, I’d have asked the store owner if they minded – I always have in the past. It just strikes me as the polite thing to do.
It never occurred to me however that photography in malls was verboten though. Probably because I see people taking pictures all the time, and because there aren’t signs or notices anywhere indicating that’s the case.
So to be approached by a mall security guard and told to stop was a bit of a shock. Rather than kick up a fuss, I decided to dig a bit. First stop, the Visitor Information desk. They had no idea where I could find a copy of mall policies regarding what was and what was not permitted. When I explained further that it was regarding being stopped by mall security for taking pictures, they directed me to the security office.
So down into the bowels of the mall I go, where I’m told that yes it’s mall policy – because of the terrorist threat.
I was actually speechless for a moment. Had she actually, with her bare face hanging out, just said that? Terrorist threat? Chinook mall?
Give me an effing break. You know what things are threatened in Calgary by possible terrorists? All the oil companies. The Calgary Tower. Glenmore Reservoir.
And you know what is a truly pointless way of trying to stop terrorists? Stopping people from taking pictures. It’s a mall, not a military base or critical infrastructure. And with nearly *everyone* having a camera or cell phone with camera, it’s impossible to stop. I passed 5 people taking pictures and one person with a video camera just on my way to the security office.
I don’t know, maybe I’ve been reading Bruce Schneier’s blog for too long. I’ve just gotten a lot less tolerant in the last few years of bullshit security measures. You can’t prevent a terrorist threat/attack by stopping people from taking pictures. In a mall it’s just laughable.
Someone else responding to my status commented that it would also be to prevent things like corporate espionage. Competing companies documenting displays and prices. Again, utterly ineffective for a lot of reasons.
Probably the most obvious one is that it’s a mall. Which means in a lot of cases that the competition is literally across the mall corridor. And you can bet there’s no mall policy preventing stores from putting in surveillance cameras in their own stores. Or any checks to see where those cameras are actually pointed
Another is that there is no reasonable way to prevent it in a place as public and open as a mall. It’s incredibly easy to hide a camera/video camera these days. Wire up a backback, and wander around at your leisure.
Or, hey, how about just bribing one of the poor minimum wage clerks? You could even manage to get a dump of their entire database, client info and current inventory and sales figures. Cheaper than hiring a photographer or some nefarious professional.
There are certainly places where it would be considerable reasonable and prudent to forbid photography – a mall or other primarily public space is not one of them.
An honor is not diminished for being shared. – Lois McMaster Bujold