Scottish mall-cop: it's illegal to take pictures in the mall; Scottish cop: photographers can have their devices confiscated under terrorism laws

A security guard in Braehead shopping centre near Glasgow questioned a man who was taking pictures of his young daughter looking cute while eating an ice-cream. The guard told him that photography in the mall was "illegal" and demanded that he delete any photos he'd taken while there. When the man told him he'd already posted the photos to Facebook, the guard summoned a policeman, who said that he could confiscate the phone under the UK's terrorism laws. The policeman took his details and "he was eventually allowed to leave."

The official statements from the mall and the police are maddeningly bureaucratic and every bit as stupid as the original incident: "a full review of the circumstances surrounding the incident and the allegations made is under way" say the police; "Our priority is always to maintain a safe and enjoyable environment for all of our shoppers and retailers," says the mall.

Just a reminder: pretty much everything that's legal on the public street is legal in a private store. A store or mall can have a policy saying "You can't wear purple here" or "You must enter the premises backwards" or "No photography allowed," but those are policies, not laws. A store's representatives can ask you to leave for violating their policies, but that's pretty much it (of course, if you refuse to leave, that's a different matter).


  1. The individuals involved were clearly idiots, but the shopping-centre owner has backed down:

  2. The best bit in the article is the last two paragraphs:

    “We have a ‘no photography’ policy in the centre to protect the privacy of staff and shoppers and to have a legitimate opportunity to challenge suspicious behaviour if required.

    “However, it is not our intention to – and we do not – stop innocent family members taking pictures.”

    So not only was their policy idiotic in the first place, but it was contradictory.

  3. Simon malls in the US has the same policy, which I found out while taking a photo of a Steve Jobs memorial in front of the local Apple store.

  4. We really do have to stop calling them ‘mall-cops’. They aren’t cops. They are more akin to footmen, court functionaries, liveried lackeys who serve the interests of the modern-day local lords. A better name is needed.

    1. I’m not sure that will ever happen, I mean Paul Blart – Mall Cop was such an iconic film, I don’t think anyone will ever forget it or the lessons it taught us *sober gaze towards the horizon*

  5. It’s a shopping mall, they are fake places for people who really should know better. Who cares? Go and take the opportunity to find what local shops, own by people in your are around and show them your support buy buying there. There service is probably better anyway. 

    1. I used to love to go to shopping malls and immerse myself in all that hyper-concentrated merchandising, especially during the holidays. It was exciting.

      These days I go to craft shows, garage sales, and for my schwag. Haven’t seen the inside of a mall in years. So I am glad I am missing all this nonsense.

    2. You know, hun, the whole point of the “It hurts when I do this, doc” joke is that “Well, don’t do it, then” is totally useless advice. I come from town where there ARE no “local shops” left thanks to Wal-Mart and their ilk. It sort of amazes me that your dismissive answer doesn’t take such things into account. Instead of blaming the victim from a position of privilege, how about considering WHY somebody would patronize one of these places?

      1. I think we’re talking about Simon Shopping Center-style malls, not Walmart/Kmart/Target etc.  Walmart is actually a warmer, more welcoming, less soul-crushing place to shop than these malls.

  6. p.s. Boing Boing Admins: Since you swapped over to disqus, it is only possible to post on here when third party cookies are enabled. That is a poorly written set of scripts, and quite possibly the last comment that I leave, cos I can’t be bothered to change my browser’s settings every time I wish to post. May I remind you:

    1. I was just about to add to my hosts file…  So if I did, I wouldn’t be able to post here?  Bad boingboing!

      1. > I was just about to add to my hosts file… 
        > So if I did, I wouldn’t be able to post here?

        No, that’s not really true, I don’t think.  I have and related entirely blocked with NoScript ABE (not exactly the same as a hosts entry, but the same effect) and I can post here just fine.

    2. Except Disqus actually solves the “don’t make people sign up to have a relationship with you” problem, for the majority of users, due to supporting single sign on with other sites, as well as a Disqus login being shared across other sites that use Disqus.

  7. sometimes i’m a bit frightened – these incidents seem to occur more and more often.
    think back to, say, the 90s: stuff like this NEVER happened. 
    it’ s almost as if some corrupt nazi regime decided to use 9/11 as a pretext to establish a worldwide “orwell’s nightmare” reign of oppression.

    for the record:
    then again, i’m certain it’s just my imagination.

    1. Then again, ten years ago there wasn’t a camera built into every electronic gadget we carry around.

  8. Another thing that’s worth remembering is that the mall cannot oblige you to delete the photos.  Neither can police.  This is destruction of personal property, and requires a court order in the UK.

    Oliver, it does feel like that, but I wouldn’t be so hasty to put the blame in one place.  Other things to happen in the same 10-year timespan would include the ubiquity of cellphone cameras, every man & his dog being online, and the boom of social networking.  So there’s a lot more cameras in the wild, and it’s much easier to ‘spread the news’.  (it mentions he’d already uploaded it to facebook; so we’re almost certainly talking about a camera in a smartphone here.)

    1. Quite apart from destruction of personal property, it’s destruction of evidence. It makes no sense whatever for a police officer to ask you to delete what could – in principle – be used as evidence against you. The very fact that they’re asking or demanding you do this might be taken as evidence that they have not thought this through and are making it up as they go along.

  9.  “1,000 years from now there will be no guys and no girls, just wankers. Sounds great to me.” 
    Rent Boy from Trainspotting.  Apparently that thousand years is getting here faster than he thought.

  10. I’d not be all that surprised if, before ten years pass, it will be illegal for you not to be using your wearable video cameras as co-opted employees of the security services in a common endeavour to distribute the cost of recording everything, everywhere. It’ll be like getting fined for having a broken indicator light.

    Not that I’m paranoid or pessimistic or anything.

  11. If I’d been the guy, I would’ve phoned the police in front of the police officer and told them that a guy was walking around the shopping centre trying to steal people’s phones by impersonating a police officer. Which is almost entirely true.

    Shit like this pisses me off because my local police force hasn’t been hiring for the past nine years, but I’d quite like to join. And every day another story that makes it quite clear that there should be vacancies. Okay, not relating to my local force but still. Rrr.

    coffeemoon is right; could we please organise an Occupy Boing Boing to get rid of Disqus? I feel like it’s watching me even when the computer’s off.

    1. You’re aware that some police forces refuse applicants who have too high IQ, right?

      Honestly, if you want to know what’s wrong with the police, that’s it.

      1. That’s because police work is a lot of brutal, tedious paperwork and sitting around in cars.  Police work makes high-IQ people bored and miserable and then they quit, wasting whatever money the department spent training them.

        I suppose what’s wrong with janitorial services is that they don’t hire enough PhDs.

  12. Here’s a link to piece Newsnight Scotland did last night on this story.

    Stick with it for the start of the interview with Les Gray, Chairman of the Scottish Police Federation at 4.20 and his comments on “trial by social media” and the scourge of “peedeeo philes”


  13. I wouldn’t recommend taking pictures of GCHQ in Cheltenham, though, or of arguing with the police when they turn up within ten minutes of you pointing your camera at the secret doughnut, even when you’re far enough away not to be able to see the signs on the fence telling you not to take pictures.

  14. What’s interesting here is that there *was* a great outcry, it was widely reported in the media and the policy was changed. Nobody bought the “but, but, but… terrorism!” line – it was just too clearly ridiculous.

  15. “…now Dougal, you must stoap whomsoever you see cavorting around the shopping seenter with a camira. They’re up tae no good I tell’s ye, no good at a'”.
    From what outlandish source did the wee manney derive his comportment?

  16. The twitter account for Strathclyde Police (@keepingpeoplesafe ) just posted a link to their side of the story:

    The tl;dr version – they say the incident wasn’t to do with him photographing his daughter (but can’t say what it was), and that his story isn’t backed up by witnesses or CCTV.

    I’m sure there’ll be a response to this, since apparently there was to be a demo this weekend.

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