Dangerous points of view.

Monday, August 21st, 2006

OK, we’re flying, we’ve made it through security…hey, take a look out the window, that’s kinda cool…get a picture!

Or maybe, as Josh Simons blogs, not so fast:

On my recent trip back from India on British Airways, I was inspired […] to snap some landscape photos at 35000 feet. I think we were over Iran at the time. After taking several shots, imagine my surprise when one of the BA attendants closed the window shade and informed me that it was against British Airways policy for passengers to take such photos for security reasons. I thought she was kidding, but the head attendant confirmed what I had been told. And that it had nothing to do with where we were flying.

This seems to violate so many civil liberties my head is spinning, but it also makes me want to check and review how those civil liberties are safeguarded by the power of international law. Could well be..um..not so much.

In New York, the MTA finally withdrew (last I checked) their proposed ban on subway photography. There have been attempts to curtail our rights to acquire pixels in other cities, and more than one building security guard since 9/11 has attempted to prevent photography of city images that feature his or her employer’s building.

We hear that Americans of Arabic descent, picked up for mass buys of Wal-Mart cell phones, had lots of digital snapshots of the Mackinac Bridge…and the conclusion too many people jump to is this is a risk to our security. In the name of all that is American, I sure hope would-be bridge plotters don’t Google this site.

This paranoia is a risk to our continued sanity. We must take a breath and recalibrate. The relatively free flow of images, data, and information—about everything from the specifications of our bridges to what the world looks like from above to the number of atomic weapons the US deployed during the cold war—is not a risk to our freedom…it is our freedom.