Aug 062010
 
 August 6, 2010  Court, Surveillance

The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reports than an Iowa man has been sentenced to probation after pleading guilty to eight counts of privacy invasion for putting a video camera in a women’s restroom at the Kendallville Campground. The camera produced a live feed, and no photographs or recordings were reportedly found.

So any woman who used that restroom during the period when the camera was installed may be wondering whether she was observed on live feed. What is the impact of that in terms of privacy harm? And have women who may have been observed but do not know about this case suffered any privacy harm? Ryan Calo discusses the Peeping Tom scenario in his recent article, the Boundaries of Privacy Harm. Arguing that Peeping Tom situations may be a privacy violation but not necessarily a privacy harm, he writes, in part:

On one view, the hidden or undiscovered observer represents the quintessential privacy harm because of the unfairness of his actions and the asymmetry between his and his victim’s perspective. We certain bristle at the thought of someone watching us unseen in the shower. Yet my theory would not capture this activity as a privacy harm unless and until the observed found out about it. Without that, there is no perception of unwanted observation, nor is there use of information adverse to the individual being observed.

Ryan might argue, then, that women who do not know that they were observed in the campground restroom have suffered a privacy violation but not a privacy harm. Do you agree?

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