Your Right to Privacy, Even in Public

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We shouldn’t have to worry about being secretly videotaped or photographed when we head out into public to do daily activities like work, school or shopping. However, smartphones and other advanced camera technology have caused voyeurism – a form of sex offence – to be on the rise in our communities.

You might hear these referred to as “peeping tom” or “invasion of privacy” offences and they range from cameras hidden in public facilities, such as a change room or bathroom, to photos being taken of victims in public places like playgrounds, at grocery stores, or while on the beach. “Upskirts” are another kind of voyeurism, with perpetrators secretly taking pictures up women’s skirts or dresses.

The common link to these crimes is that victims do not know someone is photographing or recording them for a sexual purpose. They haven’t consented to these actions.

Just because you’re out in public, does not mean you agree to be filmed.

Although violence isn’t usually involved, people who experience voyeurism can often be left feeling violated, fearful for their privacy and safety, and angry or embarrassed about what they have been through. Voyeurism can be traumatic and leave damaging effects that last beyond the actual incident. Some people describe feeling haunted by what happened and being unable to trust others.

It’s important to know, as with any kind of sexual crime, it is not your fault.

Fortunately, the Supreme Court of Canada recently ruled on a case that involved a high school teacher who secretly filmed students using a pen-camera, putting in more legal protections against voyeurism. The Court found that although people – and in this specific case, students – might be photographed or filmed in public, it isn’t realistic to expect this is done for sexual reasons. This decision better ensures that when recording technology is used to prey on people in public spaces, the perpetrator will face criminal penalties.

If you’re concerned that you have been filmed or photographed without your consent, remember, you have the right to protect and defend your privacy.

Shawn Adamsson