Is Hiding Illegal?
October 8, 2005 6:17 PM   Subscribe

UK residents, is it illegal to hide your face from the ubiquitous security cameras?

According to BoingBoing, there are signs throughout Britain that "demand that you take off your hoodie's hood or your motorcycle crash-helmet so that it won't interfere with the universal surveillance". Is this simply a suggestion, or is it actually illegal to cover your head? Bonus points if anyone can link to a photo of the aforementioned signs.
posted by jsonic to Law & Government (18 answers total)
The only time I've seen signs like the ones you refer to is in the entrance to banks/post offices/other places likely to be robbed. Even there its not a legal requirement - just to stop them setting alarms off or not letting you in.

Recently there was some media guff when a shopping mall banned hoodies but again that was the action of an individual company - who can let who they want onto their property.

I think that one of Blair's Criminal Justice Acts has given the police the power to tell people to oncover their faces at demonstrations - but I'm too lazy to google it properly atm
posted by prentiz at 7:05 PM on October 8, 2005

I've found that Boing Boing editors tend to be just a taaaad reactionary and prone to exaggeration.
posted by o0o0o at 8:13 PM on October 8, 2005

Many jurisdictions have anti-mask laws; in the U.S. many of these were enacted in the 1960's to prevent masked KKK marches.

While I'm unfamiliar with British law, I have no problem at all believing that they too have similar laws.

In the U.S. anti-mask laws are Constitutional.
posted by jellicle at 9:24 PM on October 8, 2005

Disturbing precedent, jellicle. Thanks for the heads up.
posted by knave at 10:16 PM on October 8, 2005

do the americans on mefi know the extent of video surveillance in the uk?
posted by anadem at 10:26 PM on October 8, 2005

I don't, anadem. What is "universal surveillance"? Sounds scary.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:33 PM on October 8, 2005

I've heard that the UK has a huge amount of surveillance. Isn't it something like the most cameras per capita in the world? Are they "for your protection" like they were in V for Vendetta?
posted by 6550 at 10:52 PM on October 8, 2005

anadem - I was in London for a period of time, and the great number of cameras >EVERYWHERE< is astounding. I remember I was in Camdentown seeking party favors and everyone seemed to know exact 'blind spots' with purpose of course. Are those cameras linked in any way? Such as, being able to access many, all in one spot?
posted by AllesKlar at 10:54 PM on October 8, 2005

6550: I once read "10% of all the CCTV cameras in the world are installed in the UK". Can't speak to accuracy though, and that was a few years ago.
posted by Leon at 11:01 PM on October 8, 2005

Leon, even if 10% is just ballpark that still sounds scary to me! It's been quite a few years since I've been to London but I don't remember seeing cameras at the time. I wouldn't have been looking for them, though. Is there any kind of public outrage due to the cameras? I know of at least one small town in the US that had a camera put in at a traffic light. The locals kept shooting it and eventually they stopped fixing the camera. We're getting more of them in Denver, especially at lights for the (supposed) purpose of nailing red-light-runners.
posted by 6550 at 11:13 PM on October 8, 2005

"Equally ubiquitous are the signs that demand that you take off your hoodie's hood or your motorcycle crash-helmet so that it won't interfere with the universal surveillance."

This is simply not true outside of banks or other places that might be robbed, and even then it's aimed more at people wearing motorcycle helmets than other headwear.
posted by normy at 11:57 PM on October 8, 2005

There is nothing to worry about re - security cameras in the UK. The sole purpose of having so many is to provide stock footage for all the reality TV shows we have at the moment.

In all seriousness, it's not restrictive or scary at all and it is there for a genuine reason (just look at the UK's violent crime statistics). It's not illegal to either conceal oneself in public and it's also not illegal to learn where the cameras are so that if you need to you can sneak around them. We're not quite that oppressive yet. As others have mentioned the signs in banks etc. are to prevent people being misidentified as armed robbers whilst wearing crash helmets and so forth.

What pisses me off right now are charvas in gloves. Either they are all dead soft and are protecting their delicate little fingers or they think it'll help them commit crime without fingerprints. Combined with hoodies and scarves (Burberry, natch) to hide the face it's like they are learning from watching CSI or something.
posted by longbaugh at 2:57 AM on October 9, 2005

It's not illegal. There are lots of muslim women who live day to day with full face covering and I haven't heard any of them having law problems wandering around.
posted by Mossy at 4:14 AM on October 9, 2005

Overstatement by Cory - again.
posted by dash_slot- at 5:00 AM on October 9, 2005

Is there any kind of public outrage due to the cameras?

No. There have been quite a few attacks on speed cameras, but general surveillance has gone rather unnoticed.

The reason for this is that a very elegant media campaign ran through the '90s to convince everyone that CCTV is the be-all-and-end-all of making our society a safe place to live.

We have an unsolved-crimes show called Crimewatch UK here, which is extremely popular. They generally use the full range of CCTV available to them, and you get to see the real extent of how you're being watched. They do solve a lot of crimes though, so I'm pretty indifferent to it. I class myself as a libertarian, but I don't consider that these cameras particularly infringe upon my rights.
posted by wackybrit at 6:24 AM on October 9, 2005

Read The Atrocity Archives (by MeFite cstross) to find out what the cameras are *really* there for. 8-)
posted by mrbill at 7:56 AM on October 9, 2005

Public outrage against security cameras in the UK? Not much, and this may be one of the reasons.
posted by iviken at 1:04 PM on October 9, 2005

sounds like more doctorow hyperbole. CCTV isn't everywhere - and most "universal surveillance" in the UK is in london as a legacy of the IRA bombing campaigns in the 80s/90s.

though i do hear that out in the sticks people are installing CCTV in their homes because of a spate of pet napping.
posted by tnai at 2:00 PM on October 9, 2005

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