Is the Creepy Cameraman hanging out on Capitol Hill?

(Image used by permission to CHS)

(Image used by permission to CHS)

Perhaps the Creepy Cameraman should hang out with the Capitol Hill drone pilot. Thursday night, CHS reader Art tells us he had a possible run-in with the notorious cameraman:

Yesterday evening, around 5:20pm, my friends and I were accosted by this guy aggressively recording us at the bus stop on Madison between 13th and 12th. When asked to stop politely, he would simply step closer. Attempting to dissuade him from continuing we moved, trying to keep him at our backs; he responded by remaining silent and moving around to try and get our faces on camera, getting really up close and aggressive. While one of us contacted SPD, my friend snapped a picture, attached. Finally, still silent, he decided to leave, putting away the camera and walking up Madison, turning on 13th.

Last fall, similar videos shot on Seattle streets earned their creator the Creepy Cameraman nickname as privacy issues were raised by his legal but voyeuristic behavior. We’re not aware of any physical description of that man — or any images that turn the lens back on him.

SPD was called to the area of 13th and E Madison Thursday night around 5:43 PM but we can’t find any record of the suspicious-acting man being contacted. Just 30 minutes earlier, in a likely but still notable coincidence, police were called to 20th Ave E to a report of a man taking a picture of houses who became aggressive when the 911 caller asked him what he was up to. The 20th Ave E photographer’s description wasn’t anything like the man shown in Art’s pictures, by the way, and no laws were broken in that incident.

This spring, CHS ended up bringing worldwide attention to a peculiar situation reported in the Miller Park neighborhood involving a woman’s concern about a man flying a camera-equipped drone doing “research” near her home.

The incidents in an increasingly photographed, recorded and documented environment illustrate some of the inherent tensions as we get used to what is normal and what is simply weird when it comes to technology and privacy.

54 thoughts on “Is the Creepy Cameraman hanging out on Capitol Hill?

    • Then you could get arrested for destruction of personal property.

      Better to dial 911 and complain of being harassed / threatened. That’s what the police is for.

      • Better to use an emergency number to report what is neither a crime nor an emergency?

        No. People who use 911 for trivial, non-critical purposes should be heavily fined.

    • … except that’s actually illegal, unlike taking photographs in public of things that are in public.

      I’m not defending someone being creepy about taking photos, of course, but photography itself is a legitimate hobby and it’s hard to come up with clear, easily-enforced, consistent laws that balance the various issues in a reasonable way without treading on constitutional rights.

    • Thereby giving him an entirely valid reason to have you arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

      Yeah, that’ll help.

    • The whole point this guy was trying to make is that we as a society don’t mind being constantly watched by our government, but we get angry if we see someone recording us. Why aren’t we up in arms against the government the same way we are against this guy?

  1. This guy did the same thing in Wallingford to my friends and me! It was so creepy. He told us he was videotaping when I said you need permission to take photos of someone. And he was totally up in our face, not from a distance or anything. I asked him to stop and he just kept taping in silence. He insisted it was legal when I told him it wasn’t. So creepy! Wish I would’ve called 911 looking back on the situation…

  2. technically, this could be considered “harassment”, which is a crime, because it’s “in your face” and “creepy”, and it’s intentional. Which makes me sure that pretty soon, someone is going to decide to “defend themselves” when it occurs. Judging by creepy cameraman’s physique and pitiful demeanor, any one of our Capitol Hill amazons could put this guy down easily. And hold him for the cops.

  3. If you want to make a point, don’t bother homeless people, immigrants, and other marginalized individuals. Go to Laurelhurst or Inverness or Madison Park or the Amazon buildings to do this crap. What a priveleged douche.

  4. Washington Law regarding STALKING:
    http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=9A.46.110

    Washington Law defining HARASSES:
    http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=10.14.020

    Washington Law defining HARASSMENT:
    http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=9A.46.020

    “Twelve states forbid the recording of private conversations without the consent of all parties. Those states are California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington. – See more at: http://www.rcfp.org/first-amendment-handbook/introduction-recording-state-hidden-camera-statutes#sthash.YpqquksY.dpuf

    Video

    Most video recordings are legal with or without consent. There are very few laws which prohibit video recording of any kind, but there are laws in some areas dealing with areas of expected privacy.

    Generally, it is perfectly legal to videotape or photograph any person and anything while on public property, except:

    You cannot take pictures of areas that are usually considered private such as bedrooms, bathrooms, changing rooms, locker rooms, hotel rooms and so on

    Certain public places have banned the use of cameras such as mass transit systems, courthouses, capital buildings, secured government buildings, jails or prisons unless you obtain written permission

    You cannot film or photograph if it interferes with police, fire, medical or emergency operations

  5. Being a jerk isn’t illegal.

    If so, people who waste the police department’s time over trivia about which they can and should do absolutely nothing would be arrested.

    You did the right thing – photograph him and post the result. Now stop whining. Neither your nor you property have been injured in any way.

      • Wait a second, you blur out the face of someone taking pictures IN PUBLIC but you have no problems providing a link to the unblurred victims of “surveillance camera man” so everyone can have a laugh?

          • I wouldn’t have blurred his face.

            Surely, you can see the irony of protecting the privacy of someone who is intentionally working so hard to abuse the privacy of innocents. Especially since you’re enabling that abuse.

            Show his face.

          • I greatly appreciate your reporting and this site overall. Great work. But, I agree it’s a little messed up to show his victims’ faces but to blur his face. I understand his video existed elsewhere on the Internet, but that doesn’t obligate you to link to it. If you do want to be completely open and show his victims’ faces, that’s fine, but if you take that route, you should show his as well.

    • I have Google Glass and love it. I don’t go around photographing anyone or anything at random though. I use it for shots at events, shows (where cameras are allowed) and for outdoor/cityscape shots.

      I also post all of the photos online publicly on my Facebook so anyone can see what I am taking pictures of…and video? I so rarely take video of anything with or without Glass.

  6. Given that he’s being irritating about it, as opposed to sneaking pictures of people, it sounds like he wants confrontation and a fight. My guess it that he’s just waiting for someone to punch him or break his camera so he can sue them and he might just win since it is legal to be annoying with a camera in a public place.

    I think the best course of action might just be to let him film you. After all, there isn’t really any harm someone can cause you with a video of you walking down the street.

  7. Unfortunately, this guy sounds like he is just waiting for somebody to react violently so that he can sue and/or press charges. What an asshole. This might make me a bad person, but if I hear about him getting a beatdown from somebody who doesn’t like to be filmed, I’m not going to be very sympathetic. He is creating potentially dangerous situations for himself.

    God, some people are weird.

  8. He’s making a point: Cameras are everywhere. His is just one more in the hands of a person. People wouldn’t think twice about a surveillance camera on the block operating inanimately, but they’re basically the same.

    • No they aren’t. Nice try but no one’s stupid enough to buy that. A strange man carrying a backpack following you around recording you, not going away when you ask him to, is way more of a potentially threatening situation. There are just way too many nut cases out there especially on the Hill. Look at all the people who have been attacked and/or killed by male loners, John Lennon being the most obvious.

      • Then you trust the person you don’t know at the other end of the surveillance camera? Both have human interaction, one just more subtle than the other.

      • How ridiculous. A surveillance camera isn’t 1 inch from my face, to potentially be shared on YouTube or who knows where. I don’t really care if a QFC camera films me from 15 feet above my head as I walk in and out of the store. It’s a whole other story if some creepy stranger is following me, though. The surveillance camera doesn’t have the potential to suddenly attack me.

    • If you really think that being filmed by a stationary security camera is the same as being harassed on the street by some random freak with a video camera who follows you despite your requests to be left alone, I don’t know what to tell you. I’d be interested to see how you would react to this guy putting a camera in your face.

      • Well the first thing I’d do is become instantly enraged and start swinging at him, having exchanged fewer than ten words.

        I mean, seriously? It’s amazing how this guy can, just by his very presence, incite ordinary people into committing a felony. And the crazier thing is, all these people stand their ground. No one appears to think “There’s a guy filming on this sidewalk. I guess I’ll walk away”; nope! It’s straight to “I’m going to escalate this to assault right now.”

        When people start attacking people for being offensive to them, it’s time to get out of Mississippi.

        • Well, if this guy harassed me, I would walk away after telling him what I thought of him, even thought it sounds like he would follow me. I wouldn’t go after him. But I’m a nice guy. One of these days this guy is going to provoke the wrong person, and if he ends up getting hurt, he will bear part of the blame for creating the situation in the first place.

  9. This guy sounds like an irritating asshole, but what he’s doing is legal. People who say you can’t take their picture without permission are flat wrong.

    If you are in public (like on a sidewalk or at a bus stop), you have no right to privacy. Anyone can take your photo, and they don’t need your permission. You have a right to privacy inside your own house or apartment, but not while out in public. The only right you have in public is that the person taking photos can’t use them for commercial purposes (basically, advertising). Same goes for video.

    Some of his other behavior might raise to the level of harassment or some such, but strictly the act of photographing you itself is NOT illegal in any way.

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  11. I kinda admire what he is doing. Its not illegal. He is trying to provoke people in a unique way. It does raise interesting issues. Let let it happen, and if you don’t like it, don’t make a scene and he will get bored.

    • I don’t really want to “let it happen”. If I ask not to be filmed, he should honor my wishes. If I walk away, I shouldn’t be followed. I’m not just going to stand there while a camera is thrust into my face. “leave me alone” means “leave me alone”. Just because you can do this legally, doesn’t mean you should.

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  15. I find it funny how surveillance cameras are fine but the moment you see some one behind it it is inappropriate. Honestly I wouldn’t care if this guy walked up to me and started filming, it’s not like the video camera will steal my soul, and its not like he is invading any privacy I have when I public. Fuck with how many people are in a city one more pair of eyes is nothing.

  16. I get the discomfort this causes and how it can seem weird.
    However, I believe what he is doing is a good thing, hear me out.

    He’s trying to raise attention with these videos about privacy and the government. You’re upset when he’s filming you without your permission, the government does it all the time. The U.S. gov recently showed interest in buying a large number of the CCTV style cameras that Britain has all over the place.
    The only way to stop this is by raising attention.

    I’d say there are better methods like explaining the cause however most people will just brush it off and not think much off it. This caused an emotional response from a lot of people which is much more powerful.

    Why be so upset at some powerless no-name filming you, when the government, with full power over you, is not far from doing exactly this. Not to mention all the NSA privacy concerns.