What is an auditor?
An auditor is a person or company qualified to conduct financial, security, and health and safety audits.
Most companies in the United Kingdom will employ third-party or internal auditors to conduct annual finance checks, assess health and safety, look for security breaches, etc.
One of the biggest auditing companies in the United Kingdom is Deloitte, experts in stock analysis, stock taking and insolvency.
Auditors will perform an audit using equipment such as scanners, scales, counting machines, and cameras and will record what they’ve audited on spreadsheets, notepads and laptops.
Audits can also be conducted in the form of a census by government contractors to assess living and work conditions, cultural changes, and population counts, among other things.
Citizen journalists, or auditors as they prefer to be called, have hit the headlines recently, whereby they operate under the guise of journalism.
Most of these so-called auditors are law-abiding citizens that set about to film and photograph inside public buildings and outside police stations.
Amateur auditors conduct their audit using a cellphone, Go-Pro, DSLR, or camera drone. They upload the footage onto social media via a live feed or publish it later for viewers to watch.
Their main objective is to challenge staff for a reaction, though they also claim to conduct security checks and test the boundaries regarding photography on public land and thoroughfares.
Most auditors have no formal journalism qualifications, nor are they accredited by journalist organisations such as the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).
In addition, they hold no form of auditing qualifications.
Not content with filming and photographing public buildings and police stations, several amateur auditing social media groups have begun homing their cameras and drones onto military facilities, intelligence agencies and nuclear power plants.
Some videos posted on social media illustrate predominately young males with British accents wearing balaclavas approaching military bases with cameras. They either remain silent during their audit or challenge security staff for a reaction.
In one video posted onto YouTube and Rumble (a far-right platform) a year ago, two masked auditors that work for the organisation News Now Yorkshire can be seen approaching armed military police at the RAF base in Credenhill, on the outskirts of Hereford.
RAF Credenhill is one of the U.Ks’ special forces bases at which the Special Air Service (SAS) is based.
In a strikingly similar video posted on YouTube three years ago by Focus Pocus, masked auditors can be seen approaching the GCHQ building where military intelligence agents and analysts work. The auditor filmed people walking into and out of the secure building and several car number plates.
Five months ago, The Gwent Auditor was seen approaching Hinkley Point Nuclear Power Plant, where security staff challenged him and his associates.
No laws prevent people from approaching, filming and photographing sensitive government buildings and nuclear power plants; still, why would you? Some auditors claim they’re filing for educational purposes, though that remains to be seen.
In addition, there are no laws that prohibit filming or photographing staff leaving said buildings on public land. However, it doesn’t take a genius to identify staff that work at these facilities, their friends, family and work colleagues, all of which could be used by terrorists or foreign military organisations to commit an act of terror or sabotage.
Amateur auditors upload their videos onto social media platforms such as YouTube and Facebook and far-right platforms such as Telegram, Gab, Rumble and Truth Social.
Furthermore, many auditors are live streaming these videos, which, should a privacy violation occur, there would be no way of preventing the audience from downloading or copying the video before it was removed.
As a photographer with fifteen years of experience in the industry, I do not recommend anyone photographing or filming British military bases and nuclear plants.
Besides being unethical and giving genuine photographers and journalists a bad name, someone will likely get hurt in the long run.
So, what are the laws surrounding this type of photography and videography?
Fortunately, no new laws have been introduced as yet that further restrict genuine photographers.
It is not illegal to take photographs or video footage in public places unless it is for criminal or terrorist purposes.
Suppose a person is seen taking photos or video footage outside a police station, religious building, chemical factory or facility, military base or nuclear power plant. In that case, this should be reported to the police immediately.
People can photograph military vehicles, ships, etc, on public land, providing there is no expectation of privacy and it is not done for criminal or terrorist purposes.
People can photograph military vehicles, ships, etc., on private land subject to the landowner’s permission, and it is not being done for criminal or terrorist purposes.
Taking a photo or video footage of a person where they can expect privacy (inside their home or garden) is likely to cause a breach of privacy laws. Therefore it would be appropriate and ethical to ask for permission first.
Photographing people on public land is a civil matter.
Terrorism Act 2000
The power to stop and search someone under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 no longer exists.
However, police officers continue to have the power to stop and search anyone they reasonably suspect to be a terrorist under Section 43 of the Terrorism Act.
Photography and Section 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000
Officers have the power to stop and search a person who they reasonably suspect to be a terrorist. The purpose of the stop and search is to discover whether that person has anything that may constitute evidence that they are a terrorist.
Section 58A of the Terrorism Act 2000
Section 58A of the Terrorism Act 2000 covers the offence of eliciting, publishing or communicating information about members of the armed forces, intelligence services or police where the data is, by its very nature, designed to provide practical assistance to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.
Drone photography and videography
Flying drones over military bases, airports, nuclear power plants, or any area with a flight restriction zone is illegal under the Air Navigation Order 2009. In addition, drone flying in built-up areas could violate the Air Navigation Order 2009.
J. J. Williamson | The Norfolk Photographer
My name is Jon Williamson; I’m an ethical photographer and writer with fifteen years of experience in the industry. I shoot landscapes, seascapes, portraits and fine art. I also run workshops, offer one-on-one tuition and hold talks about photography.