In WTF this week:

A 69-year old Viennese tourist named Matkza was forced by police officers to delete photos he'd taken of the Vauxhall bus station in London, saying it was "strictly forbidden" and recording the passport numbers and hotel addresses of him and his companions, presumably because the Security Services at headquartered nearby.

Matkza, a retired cameraman with a taste for modern architecture, has vowed to never again return to London after his experience with police acting "in the name of preventing terrorism."

It is not clear why the police felt that Matkza was such a threat to public security when a real terrorist would surely either use a concealed camera, or make use of one of the 65,800 photos available of the area on Google Image search.

It's also noteworthy that deleting photographs from somebody else's camera is an offence under Section 3 of the UK's Computer Misuse Act 1990. And while there are circumstances in which the police can seize property, in general they cannot destroy it without a court order. And if the Viennese tourists were committing a crime (as surely could be the only truth when you have police telling you that your behaviour is "strictly forbidden" and forcing you to delete your data under threat of arrest), then isn't deleting the images destruction of evidence?

Matkza has since said: "I understand the need for some sensitivity in an era of terrorism, but isn't it naive to think terrorism can be prevented by terrorising tourists? I've never had these experiences anywhere, never in the world, not even in Communist countries."

The Metropolitan police said it was investigating the allegations, go figure.


Interestingly, over the pond the New York Police Department has reminded its officers that "photography and videotaping in public areas is legal" and that "although the city is a terrorist target, it's also a major tourist destination and that virtually all photography has no link to terrorism." The order also says officers cannot demand to see someone's pictures or order them to erase the photos.

Of course US law isn't UK law, but if the architects of the ridiculous War on Terror can handle a couple of tourists with cameras, why can't we?