Is the U.S. government tracking photographers?
posted Friday, September 20, 2013 at 4:51 PM EDT
For years now, photographers across the United States have widely reported being hassled by security guards, police officers, and even fellow citizens for having the audacity to want to take photos of things they find interesting. Anyone with a camera and a taste for industrial architecture or transportation has likely been bothered at some point. While taking photos in public places is legal (and don't forget your photographer's rights card), it turns out that the Justice Department is collecting reports on a number of photographers.
As reported by NPR, the ACLU recently obtained some 1,800 "suspicious activity reports" for central California, and posted a number of them on the organization's website (PDF warning). And while some of the suspicious activity reports have every reason to be there -- i.e. real threats of violence against people -- a large number of them are simply for photography.
These "suspicious" people have been reported for simply taking pictures of bridges, trains, or post offices. Other times reports have been issed for those who photograph industrial buildings, courthouses, or dams. Of course, in most of these cases, the subjects could easily have either simple artistic merit, or be interesting enough for any tourist with a camera to want to take pictures of.
Keep in mind, these examples are just a brief snippit of what's being investigated. It's just a few dozen posted online, from the more than 1,800 that the ACLU obtained, and only back to 2008. And also, this is just from a small area of California.
If you start thinking about what that means on a country-wide scale, it explains why if someone doesn't like you taking photos, you just might get a visit from the FBI.