Change in photo policy! (for the better)

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Change in photo policy! (for the better)

Postby jamesinclair » Tue May 22, 2012 2:40 am

Good news everyone! The MBTA photo policy has changed again.


First, the MBTA required people to get ridiculous permits to take pictures.

Then that was relaxed and the MBTA implemented a "harass photographer" policy where you could take pictures, but youd be treated as guilty of something, and subject to questioning and ID checks.


But now its gone, and you're free to photograph without risk of harassment*.

He added that the T also is eliminating restrictions on taking pictures in the transit system that were put in place after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

“We realized that with the abundance of cell-phone cameras, it’s almost impossible to enforce that policy of asking people for identification,” MacMillan said. “We now want people to take pictures and report anything suspicious to us.”

http://bostonherald.com/news/regional/v ... _phone_app

*Harassment may continue for 3-7 years until all employees receive the memo, delivered by carrier pigeon.


The MBTA also realized that one of their excuses to previous limit photography, which was that terrorists would use the pictures to create diagrams of stations, is absurd, because it takes about 10 minutes of standing around to memorize the layout of an MBTA transit station.

So the agency has relaxed that restriction as well and posted station maps on google maps.

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Re: Change in photo policy! (for the better)

Postby Jersey_Mike » Tue May 22, 2012 6:51 am

The proliferation of high definition cell phone cameras has made anti-photography policies simply unsustainable. The point of these policies was always to prevent either the transit authority or its employees from being exposed as inept or lazy. With so many people "packing" cameras these days any attempt to actually enforce it will simply result in 5 more videos of the agency looking heavy handed in addition to inept and lazy so organizations such as the MBTA are simply facing reality.
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Re: Change in photo policy! (for the better)

Postby saulblum » Tue May 22, 2012 8:23 am

The demand to identify oneself for an action that is not criminal in a public space was always on shaky legal ground in the first place.

The official policy posted on the web site has not been updated -- http://www.mbta.com/transitpolice/faq/ -- despite Chief MacMillan's words posted above.
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Re: Change in photo policy! (for the better)

Postby CRail » Tue May 22, 2012 8:45 am

jamesinclair wrote:*Harassment may continue for 3-7 years until all employees receive the memo, delivered by carrier pigeon.
...to create diagrams of stations, is absurd, because it takes about 10 minutes of standing around to memorize the layout of an MBTA transit station.

1.) The continued harassment will not be the result of lost memos, but will be the result of folks doing exactly what Jersey_Mike describes. Keep taking pictures to think you're getting the upper hand against employees, and you're likely to keep getting harassed.

2.)Perhaps the general station layout wasn't the concern, but locations of ventilation ducts, utility rooms, emergency exits, security cameras, conduit paths, etc were what they didn't want photographed.

Things are often a little more involved than can be conceived in the amount of time it takes to come up with a witty wise-* remark.

saulblum wrote:The demand to identify oneself for an action that is not criminal in a public space was always on shaky legal ground in the first place.

Not really. When you think of a middle-aged man standing along the perimeter of a playground photographing the activities within you might consider that suspicious activity. If I'm taking pictures in the subway, I have no problems telling someone what I'm doing, and may even furnish proof of membership with an enthusiast organization to back up my story. If you're taking pictures of a broken tile on a platform or a leak in a station, you're not going to get trouble even if you are asked what you're doing (because the T has asked people to do that and has even created an 'app' for such). If you're taking pictures of employees they're probably going to give you a hard time regardless of a policy or whether you think it's right or not. Finally, if you're noticed taking pictures of doorways and junction box locations you're probably going to get harassed anyways, and not because of a photo policy but because that's activity which is suspicious.

3rdrail or Dani can likely confirm or deny this, but I don't believe asking for identification requires legal ground, especially on private property.
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Re: Change in photo policy! (for the better)

Postby saulblum » Tue May 22, 2012 9:01 am

CRail wrote:2.)Perhaps the general station layout wasn't the concern, but locations of ventilation ducts, utility rooms, emergency exits, security cameras, conduit paths, etc were what they didn't want photographed.


If something is visible in the publicly accessible areas of the T -- whether it be a Charlie gate, an emergency exit, a sign -- then it is fair game to be photographed. It's that simple.

You know, some people have really good memories. So perhaps the T should issue blindfolds to all passengers so they don't see all this sensitive stuff.

CRail wrote:Not really. When you think of a middle-aged man standing along the perimeter of a playground photographing the activities within you might consider that suspicious activity.


Your example of a guy photographing near a playground may be creepy in your mind, but it is still 100% legal, as long as the kids are in public view. Or are you implying that the cops should harass a middle-aged guy shooting near a playground but leave the middle-aged woman photographer alone?

CRail wrote:If I'm taking pictures in the subway, I have no problems telling someone what I'm doing, and may even furnish proof of membership with an enthusiast organization to back up my story. If you're taking pictures of a broken tile on a platform or a leak in a station, you're not going to get trouble even if you are asked what you're doing (because the T has asked people to do that and has even created an 'app' for such). If you're taking pictures of employees they're probably going to give you a hard time regardless of a policy or whether you think it's right or not. Finally, if you're noticed taking pictures of doorways and junction box locations you're probably going to get harassed anyways, and not because of a photo policy but because that's activity which is suspicious.


A cop can harass you for anything he or she feels like. It's up to you, as a citizen and photographer, to determine to what degree you will put up with that harassment and to what degree you will stand up for your rights, even if the potential consequence is being arrested for some bogus charge. Again, anything in public view is fair game to be photographed. There's nothing different about photographing a door or signal box from the platform as there is photographing a broken bench.

CRail wrote:3rdrail or Dani can likely confirm or deny this, but I don't believe asking for identification requires legal ground, especially on private property.


The T is not private property, in the same way that your house is private property.
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Re: Change in photo policy! (for the better)

Postby 3rdrail » Tue May 22, 2012 10:56 am

CRail wrote:
3rdrail or Dani can likely confirm or deny this, but I don't believe asking for identification requires legal ground, especially on private property.

As you know, I'm not a lawyer, Corey, but I believe that such a request would hold up in court. The reason is that there is a compelling reason for a right to request ID due to national security issues whereby subways and other public transportation has been targeted and hit by terrorists. By advertising that you may be stopped in what is known as a "threshold inquiry" and asked to identify yourself if taking photographs, your photography activity amounts to an inferred acknowledgement of that condition. If you refuse to show ID, you're not going to get arrested for that alone as about the only place where you are legally expected to disclose your identity is while operating a motor vehicle. You'll be asked to leave and if you refuse to, you may be arrested for trespassing. Suggestion - photograph and if approached, be professional and matter of fact in explaining what you are doing. The worst thing to do is to go into an hissy fit and start spouting constitutional rights. Trust me, the policeman probably knows a lot more having had numerous classes on it at the police academy and in-service training than yourself. Honestly, all the printed out rules and hobby ID cards aren't worth much. They eminate from yourself, so they're not a very objective source. The worst that's going to happen is that you'll be asked to stop. More than likely, no matter what their rule is, if you behave the way that I suggest, they'll give you the green light and maybe even suggest a good shot.
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Re: Change in photo policy! (for the better)

Postby saulblum » Tue May 22, 2012 11:35 am

3rdrail wrote:As you know, I'm not a lawyer, Corey, but I believe that such a request would hold up in court. The reason is that there is a compelling reason for a right to request ID due to national security issues whereby subways and other public transportation has been targeted and hit by terrorists.


Worldwide ...
Schools have been attacked by terrorists.
Malls have been attacked by terrorists.
Cafes have been attacked by terrorists.
Markets have been attacked by terrorists.
Office buildings have been attacked by terrorists.
Theaters have been attacked by terrorists.
And on and on.

The argument that subways are a target and therefore demands for one's identification upon taking photos is reasonable is a very weak one. If you are going to make that argument, then you may as well argue that police should be able to detain and run a background check on anyone taking a photo in public of anything, anywhere, anytime.
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Re: Change in photo policy! (for the better)

Postby sery2831 » Tue May 22, 2012 1:27 pm

The Photo Policy has always been in place more to protect the safety of the person taking pictures and the safe operation of service. They had a permit because they wanted anyone wanting to take pictures to know the rules. No tripods and no use of flashes basically. In 2001 hastily all photography was abandoned for security reasoning. While at the time it was a logical move... And in the years since it has slowly been relaxed. What's not going to change is the fact that employees do not like to be photographed. It's not because of 9/11, it's because they personally don't want their pictures circulating out there. While it's a public job, there has to be a give and take of reasonable privacy. Lets embrace the relaxing of official rules and not talk terrorism here! Thanks!
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Re: Change in photo policy! (for the better)

Postby Adams_Umass_Boston » Tue May 22, 2012 1:49 pm

sery2831 wrote: What's not going to change is the fact that employees do not like to be photographed. It's not because of 9/11, it's because they personally don't want their pictures circulating out there. While it's a public job, there has to be a give and take of reasonable privacy. Lets embrace the relaxing of official rules and not talk terrorism here! Thanks!


When I got the tour of the BET facility late last year, I made a concerted effort not to take peoples pictures. Everyone has there day at work where they are not up to their best for "Glama Shots." What sent me off the deep end was when my pictures were used with out my permission on another website. Commenters there claimed the lack of employes showed how lazy the T was. That was not the case. In fact it was lunch time and most were having their lunch.
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Re: Change in photo policy! (for the better)

Postby CRail » Tue May 22, 2012 2:23 pm

That's exactly why employees don't want pictures taken of them or their vehicles. I know a few operators who will even position a vehicle to enhance your shot so long as they know why you're taking it (take Sery2831's avatar for example, clearly that driver has no problem with that picture being taken). Majority of riders who take pictures are trying to get dirt, and things are often twisted to make someone look bad. That's where the resentment comes from. On the other hand, I know a subway inspector who is a buff and enjoys giving a hard time to other buffs, he once approached a friend of mine like a grade A piece of meat until he saw that I was with him. We had a good laugh about that.
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Re: Change in photo policy! (for the better)

Postby saulblum » Tue May 22, 2012 2:50 pm

CRail wrote:That's exactly why employees don't want pictures taken of them or their vehicles. I know a few operators who will even position a vehicle to enhance your shot so long as they know why you're taking it (take Sery2831's avatar for example, clearly that driver has no problem with that picture being taken). Majority of riders who take pictures are trying to get dirt, and things are often twisted to make someone look bad. That's where the resentment comes from. On the other hand, I know a subway inspector who is a buff and enjoys giving a hard time to other buffs, he once approached a friend of mine like a grade A piece of meat until he saw that I was with him. We had a good laugh about that.


Agreed that courtesy goes a long way.

But being courteous and being legal are two very different animals. The Department of Justice recently blasted the Baltimore police over actions against citizens who record cops in public. The simple fact remains that while courtesy and respect never hurt, someone in a public space such as the T -- passenger and employee alike -- does not have an expectation of privacy when in public view.

Kudos to Chief MacMillan for finally recognizing the follies of the T's current photo policy, even if his reason is that it's unenforceable, rather than potentially illegal.
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Re: Change in photo policy! (for the better)

Postby MBTA3247 » Tue May 22, 2012 5:16 pm

jamesinclair wrote:
He added that the T also is eliminating restrictions on taking pictures in the transit system that were put in place after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

“We realized that with the abundance of cell-phone cameras, it’s almost impossible to enforce that policy of asking people for identification,” MacMillan said. “We now want people to take pictures and report anything suspicious to us.”

A government security agency has been afflicted by a sudden case of common sense and it's not a story in The Onion? Amazing!

CRail wrote:
jamesinclair wrote:*Harassment may continue for 3-7 years until all employees receive the memo, delivered by carrier pigeon.

1.) The continued harassment will not be the result of lost memos, but will be the result of folks doing exactly what Jersey_Mike describes.

No, the OP was right the first time. Clearly you've forgotten how until the last few years there were plenty of T employees who had never gotten the memos about any of the policies permitting photography, and would often refuse to listen if you did show them the policy.
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Re: Change in photo policy! (for the better)

Postby Arborway » Tue May 22, 2012 8:51 pm

CRail wrote:2.)Perhaps the general station layout wasn't the concern, but locations of ventilation ducts, utility rooms, emergency exits, security cameras, conduit paths, etc were what they didn't want photographed.


If the public can see something, then there is zero additional risk to having it photographed. Cat's out of the bag, and halfway to Providence.

It's that simple.
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Re: Change in photo policy! (for the better)

Postby 3rdrail » Wed May 23, 2012 7:11 pm

T employees are going to bend over backwards now, I'm sure, to enhance rail buffs pleasure photographing as a result of the photo plastered all over the news today of the Transit policeman dozing at his desk at Mattapan. The officer is pushing 30 years on the job, has an unblemished record, appeared to be overweight, and works the evening shift. MBTA management promised that action would be taken.
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Re: Change in photo policy! (for the better)

Postby saulblum » Wed May 23, 2012 9:23 pm

3rdrail wrote:T employees are going to bend over backwards now, I'm sure, to enhance rail buffs pleasure photographing as a result of the photo plastered all over the news today of the Transit policeman dozing at his desk at Mattapan. The officer is pushing 30 years on the job, has an unblemished record, appeared to be overweight, and works the evening shift. MBTA management promised that action would be taken.


The T police can't have it both ways: if they are encouraging passengers to report suspicious activity by their fellow passengers, then they're inviting riders to also submit reports of T employees behaving improperly at their job.
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