August 17, 2022

While some would say that this guy is a jerk who needs a new hobby, I also kind of appreciate this, especially in an airport context… I think?

TSA agents & airline employees don’t understand rules

Long Island Audit Inc. produces videos that are posted to Facebook and YouTube, with the intent of doing “First Amendment Audits.” This seems to typically involve the police, but a recent video had an interesting angle, as it took place at an airport.

Specifically, the person behind this went to Newark Airport for an “audit,” which involved filming the TSA checkpoint to see what kind of a reaction he’d get. Well, both TSA agents and United Airlines employees (and contract workers) fail his “test” pretty horribly.

In the nearly 20 minute video posted online:

  • The guy gets told by a TSA agent that he can’t record at TSA checkpoints
  • The police are called, and an officer tells him that he can’t film, and demands to see his press credentials
  • The guy points out that filming at TSA checkpoints is permitted, and this is even explicitly stated on the TSA’s website
  • The officer then says he just can’t film in a way that “makes people feel uncomfortable,” and the guy then asks to see the law that says that
  • A sergeant is then called, and he states that filming is allowed, and that he can continue
  • He then goes to another part of the terminal and is approached by United Airlines employees, as several people tell him he can’t film
  • A United Airlines supervisor is then called, and he has an attitude and calls the police
  • The police officer shows up and tells the United employees that “what you want and what can be done are not the same thing”

If you like this kind of stuff, the video is definitely worth a watch, and you can find it below.

By the way, in this politically polarized climate, I can’t quite figure out if the angle here is ultra-liberal, ultra-conservative, or… neither? Strange times!

Why I appreciate this guy’s work

Obviously this guy is going to the extreme, and was unarguably looking for trouble. Usually I’d be skeptical of that, but personally I quite appreciate this. The reality is that a vast majority of airline and airport workers in the United States don’t understand rules around pictures and filming:

  • Legally you can take pictures and film anywhere in an airport, with the exception of immigration facilities; yes, this includes being allowed to take pictures and film at TSA checkpoints (generally with the exception of screens)
  • Legally, you can also take pictures and film airline passengers and agents, since you don’t have a reasonable right to privacy at an airport
  • That being said, airlines can have policies against filming employees, and they can have you removed from their flight if you do so; you’re not breaking the law, you’re just breaking the carrier’s policy, which you agree to when you book a ticket
  • However, in this case the guy didn’t have an airline ticket, so there’s nothing a United Airlines employee can do, since he had no contract with the airline

I obviously take a lot of pictures at airports for this blog, and every so often I’ll run into issues where someone tells me I’m not allowed to take pictures (and I go great lengths to try to respect peoples’ privacy). For example, I once took a picture of a really long security line at Miami Airport, and one of the contract workers told me to delete that picture. Ummm, no…

So sometimes it’s nice to see someone putting in the effort and taking the heat for something like this, especially when so many people he interacted with were dead wrong.

While this is a totally different topic, I also sometimes have issues with taking pictures either at hotels or airport lounges. Ironically the issue most often occurs not when people are in the pictures, but rather when I take pictures of buffets. Some people just decide they don’t want buffets photographed.

Of course that’s different — those are private establishments, and they’re allowed to make their own rules. However, in most cases these aren’t actually policies from the companies, but rather it’s just one employee who decides to make their own rule. Kind of like what the TSA and United employees were doing here.

Bottom line

As someone who takes lots of pictures at airports, the topic of airport employees not understanding rules around that is near and dear to my heart. In this case someone went to Newark Airport to film, and to essentially see what kind of a response he’d get.

Unfortunately the TSA, United employees, and (to some extent) the police got the laws totally wrong. Fortunately when it was escalated, the police correctly understood the rules, and you’ve gotta love when the police officer tells the United supervisor “what you want and what can be done are not the same thing.”

What do you make of this Newark filming incident?

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

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