The Blair Watch Project is an effort, coordinated by the UK newspaper The Guardian, to keep tabs on the UK's Prime Minister Tony Blair as he goes about campaigning around the country. The project was prompted by the Labour party's decision to limit Blair's media exposure on the trail; now it looks like he'll be covered by more cameras than ever. On one level, it's another example of networked citizens acting as journalists, providing information to other interested citizens, with some help from traditional media; on another level, however, it's a telling example of the growing power of the participatory panopticon in the realm of politics. Although professional photojournalists cover political campaigns, they can't be everywhere, or cover every angle. Now, every citizen with a camphone can be a reporter, capturing the inadvertent gesture, quick glance or private frown. The lack of cameras snapping away can no longer be an opportunity for public figures to relax.
The Guardian is using the digital image site Flickr to host the submitted photos, and will republish the best. It's likely that 99.99% of the images will be (at best) dull, but there's always the slight chance that the right person in the right place at the right time will capture something that can reshape the election. Keep your camphones charged and your signal strong...
(An aside: Whoever came up with the name for the project should be given a hefty bonus, even if they came up with it long ago and held it until the perfect opportunity came along...)
Why is it that WorldChanging is concerned about privacy for everybody... except public figures?
Well... it's pretty much established that public figures--and politicians campaigning for office are especially public--have a more limited expectation of privacy than do normal folks. Even if one asserts that political figures should still have a right to privacy for what would normally be considered private behavior, there's no way that Blair can be out campaigning and still claim that people taking camphone pictures of him are violating his privacy. Transparency of political process is pretty important.
If you look back on the various WorldChanging posts talking about privacy -- particularly the pieces on the participatory panopticon -- you'll see that the approach is a bit more nuanced that you suggest. A concern for privacy, sure, but a recognition that technology has changed what kinds of privacy are possible.