LONDON, July 16 (UPI) -- Police in London, England, are defending a picture released on social media taken by a surveillance camera of comedian Michael McIntyre, which generated concerns over privacy.
Michael McIntyre, a comedian and host of several BBC programs, was with his publicist Alison Peters outside the offices of Global Radio in London's Leicester Square.
"Whilst on tasking in central London this morning we spotted a certain energetic funny man... Can you guess who?..." London's National Police Air Support Unit wrote on its official Twitter account on Wednesday, accompanied with a grainy image of a man with black hair in a pink shirt and dark blue suit.
It was later confirmed to be a picture of McIntyre.
"We are aware of the tweet and, as far as we are aware, it does not breach any data protection legislation," Supt. Richard Watson, ground operations director for the NPAS, said. "We feel however it was inappropriate and it has since been removed... We will be speaking to the person who posted the tweet."
Law enforcement officers in Britain are not armed, so authorities use surveillance, including closed-circuit television cameras, to prevent crime and enforce the law.
The picture created a backlash of criticism against the NPAS. The U.K. has no deliberate privacy laws, but the NPAS' actions seemingly broke the CCTV Code of Practice.
"Under the code, images should only be used for their stated purpose -- which for the police is to tackle crime and anti-social behavior," Surveillance Camera Commissioner Tony Porter said. "Public disclosure of anyone's image for the purposes of fun is a clear breach of that."
The NPAS uses helicopters to assist ground-based police in finding criminals and missing people. Police also have the ability to intercept phone calls and listen to conversations by using planes fitted with surveillance equipment.
"In a nutshell, the taking of the photograph is unlikely to be an invasion of privacy," Simon McKay, a criminal and human rights lawyer, and author of the leading textbook on covert policing law, told BBC News. "However, its needless publication almost certainly is, assuming Michael McIntyre didn't consent, which seems likely."
Gerard Batten, a member of European parliament for the UKIP party, condemned the post.
"The photograph of Michael McIntyre by a police helicopter and its publishing online is a gross misuse of police power. It isn't some private citizen taking a snap of a passing celebrity, this is the police, abusing their authority," Batten said. "The implications for civil liberties raised by this are appalling to consider. This isn't Hollywood, this is real life."