This is not meant as a defense, but as an attempt to establish some perspective on this issue. When crowds gather to pummel corporations for their selfish and anti-social behavior, I am often at the front, stone in hand. So, then, ...

The policy against photography on private corporate property is rational and sensible, even if restrictive and bothersome from the view of an individual citizen. There are real and good reasons behind the no-photography policies, and even for the seemingly ridiculous extreme to which some companies execute them. Corporations being as utterly stupid and lazy as they are, the lessons behind this had to be learned the painfully hard way and so is burned deep into the corporate mentality.

One long-standing reason is industrial espionage. Turn back, for a moment, to the 1960s or so and the hackneyed caricature of the middle-aged Japanese man with a camera taking pictures of everything in sight. That disparaging image did not originate with the out-flooding of yen-rich Japanese tourist of a few decades ago, but rather with the wave of Nikon-totting male Japanese students and businessmen of the 50s and 60s. Those men with the ubiquitous cameras and rolls of film were mostly experienced engineers in various fields of engineering and technology. They were welcomed into American factories and design houses by executives and engineers, friendly and secure in their naive yet fatal sense of untouchable superiority to these smiling, toy makers who seemed to never stop bowing. Their pictures captured much of the technology needed to take Japanese industry from makers of cheap wooden toys to an international powerhouse of heavy industry and electronics manufacturers in less than a decade. That was both insult (humiliation, really) and injury to American corporations, and both pains linger to shape corporate behavior today.

Simple cost and convenience are other reasons, though less colorful and historical. The no-pictures policy is easy to make and enforce, yet simplifies management and reduces costs by eliminating potential legal problems that may arise from photographs taken on corporate property. As property owners, corporations may be liable for what happens on their premises. In business, any choice between no-trouble and possible-trouble (no matter how slight or unlikely) is always a no-brainer. If there is a fear, it is not a fear of cameras per se, but a fear of risk.

The privacy of individuals is a third consideration. Employees may feel uncomfortable and object to having their pictures taken by strangers like fish in a bowl. Customers may not like others seeing where and with who they are shopping.

To call this policy a fear is prejudicial and rather unfair. It's simply a rational business decision. Nor is it limited to American businesses of course; you'd encounter the same or worse in other countries as well, but it is a good guess that it started in the U.S., where the problem first appeared. It is now a common aspect of international corporationism. Should we fear this kind of possibly? Probably. One can wonder if the concept of 'private property' is somewhat weakened in the case of malls and other facilities that are more or less freely open to the public and feel like public spaces. Nevertheless, so long as and to the extent that corporations are responsible for what happens on their property, some of those inalienable rights of man are left at the door when you enter.

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