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London police play ‘spot the celebrity’ with creepy surveillance photo

At the very least, this seems like a needless violation of privacy.


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw


Posted on Jul 15, 2015   Updated on May 28, 2021, 8:49 am CDT

In a city with as many CCTV cameras as London, you have to hope the police are using them for one thing and one thing only: fighting crime. Judging by this official police Twitter feed, that is not the case.

@NPASLondon is the official account for the London Metropolitan Police air service, and it just posted what basically amounts to a paparazzi shot from one of its surveillance cameras. The image shows a man in a suit, the time the photo was taken, and what appears to be a police GPS location.

The Twitter account wasn’t asking people to identify the man in relation to a crime. It was just playing Spot The Celebrity, joking that the man could be a certain well-known comedian.

Along with a handful of guesses about the comedian’s identity, most people replying to the tweet were shocked. Why were the police posting surveillance photos for entertainment, without the subject’s consent?

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According to the U.K.’s government’s surveillance camera code of practice, cameras should only be used “in pursuit of a legitimate aim.” It’s hard to see how a celebrity guessing game complies with this section of the code:

“The disclosure of images and other information obtained from a surveillance camera system must be controlled and consistent with the stated purpose for which the system was established.”

After about three hours, the photo was deleted without comment from @NPASLondon.

Photo via Arpingstone/Wikimedia (Public Domain)

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*First Published: Jul 15, 2015, 10:04 am CDT