With one tweet, the NPAS have shown their complete disregard for the laws that are there to protect our privacy

If you spend all day watching people, individual privacy may slip your mind

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Criticism towards the National Police Air Service London (NPAS) on Twitter usually seems to focus on the nocturnal flight activities which keep the residents of London awake. But this time they have come under fire for posting an image of a person (they hint at being a comedian). The Tweet by @NPASLondon brags: “Whilst on tasking in central London this morning we spotted a certain energetic funny man…Can you guess who?...”

At best posting this image was a complete waste of time. At worst, NPAS seem to have had complete disregard for the surveillance and data protection laws that are there to protect our privacy.

There is little doubt that NPAS do a laudable job: searching for missing people, assisting with public order events and tracking criminal suspects. But you have to question the judgement of the individual who decided to post the image. And the lack of responsibility and understanding of individual privacy is concerning. But if you spend all day watching people, individual privacy may slip your mind.

The Surveillance Camera Commissioner’s Code of Practice for states that: “Use of a surveillance camera system must always be for a specified purpose which is in pursuit of a legitimate aim and necessary to meet an identified pressing need.” I am struggling to see how this was either legitimate or necessary.

The Code goes on: “the disclosure of images and information should only take place when it is necessary for such a purpose or for law enforcement purposes.” That also seems pretty clear.

Yet a Scotland Yard official has been quoted as saying “It does not constitute a breach of data protection as far as we know.” Perhaps some back to basics training on surveillance systems and data protection is required throughout the Metropolitan Police.

We are told that CCTV is there to keep our streets safe, and we are repeatedly told that it is not intruding on our privacy. As a country, we have more CCTV cameras than anywhere else in the world. Add to that, surveillance by drones, helicopters, body worn cameras and Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras and the opportunities for intrusion into our private lives is clear. We as citizens are constantly being asked to accept ways that we will be placed under surveillance on the basis that it is there to keep us safe and that if we aren’t doing anything wrong then we will be left alone.

This image has proven that is not always the case. I am sure the comedian in the image was not doing anything wrong; just merely going about his day. Yet the coordinates of where he was and the exact time he was there have been published for all to see alongside the photo of that individual.

The image has now been removed by @NPASLondon. Hopefully this will provide a lesson for all the other organisations and operators who have the ability to spy on us that the public don’t take kindly on being snooped on