Video Voyeurism

Recall that during the spring, a jury convicted Dahrun Ravi of criminal invasion of privacy along with a bias intimidation charge for surreptitiously using his webcam to live stream his roommate’s sexual encounter and for attempting to do so a second time.  Here comes word of another criminal invasion of privacy case, this time in Maryland.  Apparently, a Howard County man broke into the apartments of two young women, installing a video camera in their bathrooms and bedrooms.  The man has been charged with burglary and video surveillance “with a prurient interest.”  The man apparently knew the women, allowing him to steal and copy their apartment keys.  According to news reports, the suspect filmed himself installing the cameras.  Apparently, Maryland law aims to punish and deter sexualized privacy invasions by requiring proof of prurient interest.  Besides the Ravi case, another criminal matter that comes to mind is the Erin Andrews stalking case.  Much like the criminal case against Ms. Andrews’s stalker, prosecutors might also have charged the defendant with criminal harassment, that is, repeated conduct designed to cause victim substantial emotional distress with intent to cause substantial emotional distress.  On the civil side of things, the women can surely sue their harasser for tort privacy’s intrusion on seclusion, which protects against invasions of someone’s solitude or her “private affairs or concerns” that would be “highly offensive to the reasonable person.”  As I head off to speak at the Harvard Law Review’s symposium on Privacy and Technology where I will be commenting on Neil Richards’s excellent essay “The Dangers of Surveillance” (and as I write my book Hate 3.0: The Rise of Cyber Harassment and How to Stop It, forthcoming in Harvard University Press), this case could not be more timely.  You can check out David Gray’s and my response to Neil’s paper, a draft of which is posted on the HLR website.

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