Woman Kicked Off Airplane, Deemed "Security Risk" for Taking Cell Phone Pic of Rude Employee

If the corporate honchos at US Airways are scratching their heads about why the company is one of the most hated in the country, allow me to direct them to this story, via the photographers' rights blog Photography Is Not a Crime:

A Miami photographer was escorted off a US Airways plane and deemed a “security risk” after she snapped a photo of an employee’s nametag at Philadelphia International Airport Friday.

Sandy DeWitt said the employee, whose name was Tonialla G., was being rude to several passengers in the boarding area of the flight to Miami.

So DeWitt snapped a photo of her nametag with her iPhone because she planned to complain about her in a letter to US Airways. But the photo didn’t come out because it was too dark.

However, once DeWitt was settled in her seat, preparing for take-off, Tonialla G. entered the plane and confronted her.

“She told me to delete the photo,” DeWitt said in an interview with Photography is Not a CrimeSaturday morning.

DeWitt, who already had her phone turned off in preparation for take-off, turned the phone back on to show her that it didn’t come out, but deleted the photo anyway.

“I complied with her wishes but it’s not something I would normally do,” she said. “It just wasn’t usable.”

But Tonialla G. wouldn’t let the issue go. She then walked into the cockpit to inform the pilot that DeWitt was a “security risk.”

Next thing DeWitt knew, she was being escorted off the plane by two flight attendants.

Just to confirm, it is notillegal to photograph an employees' name tag, in an airport or elsewhere. As Photography Is Not a Crime founder Carlos Miller notes on his site, "Although 'security' is often given as the reason somebody doesn’t want you to take photos, it’s rarely valid. Taking a photo of a publicly visible subject does not constitute terrorism, nor does it infringe on a company’s trade secrets." Also, "If someone tries to confiscate your camera and/or film, you don’t have to give it to them. If they take it by force or threaten you, they can be liable for things like theft and coercion. Even law enforcement officers need a court order."

Nevertheless, this kind of thing happens all the time. As I wrote in AlterNet back in January, the growing accessibility of mobile recording devices and social media are leading authorities to increasingly intimidate photographers and others who try to record wrongdoing. And that is a frightening trend; if you can't even record the name of a rude airline employee, what's going to happen when you need to record police brutality?

AlterNet / By Lauren Kelley

Posted at July 5, 2011, 5:43am

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