The bill in cause comes to address one of the fundamental rights of a human being, the right of a person to privacy. In the context of the ever-growing aggressive paparazzi, who, under the justification that certain persons can be deemed and categorized as "public persons," find it just to spy, film and take pictures of celebrities, movie stars or politicians, this bill comes exactly at the right time and intends to cover the entire issue in question. Obviously, throughout the world, the tragic death of Princess Diana in 1997, followed towards her death by a herd of paparazzi on scooters, trying to sneak away a picture of the Princess and Dodi Al Fayed, was a direct cause of state legislators trying to fully cover the issue of privacy.
Perhaps before we address the bill in question, we need to briefly discuss the notion of privacy, as a general subject. According to Wikipedia, privacy can be defined as "the ability of a person to control the availability of information about and exposure of him- or herself. It is related to being able to function in society anonymously." Additionally, Eric Hughes sees privacy as "the power to selectively reveal oneself to the world" and the Webster dictionary as "the quality or state of being apart from company or observation." It is perhaps interesting to note that none of these definitions (I have quoted three) refers to privacy as being a right. Privacy is seen as a quality, a power or ability, but not a right. This is because it is the mission of legislative bills to confer rights and obligations and AB 2403, introduced by Assembly Member Jackson, comes to do exactly this: to bring privacy to a right level, a right that is guaranteed by the state through an Assembly Bill, a right that if tempered with by third parties will be lawfully enforced.
The bill in question is not actually an original one. The problem of privacy and enforcing privacy rights has been treated in the past legislatures. However, until now, the sexual content of disturbing one's privacy needed to be present. Quoting from the body of the bill, "existing law provides that it is a crime punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for a period not to exceed 6 months, a fine not to exceed $1,000 or by both (...) for any person to look into or view an interior of an area in which the occupant has a reasonable expectation of privacy with the intent to invade the privacy or to view, film or record the body or undergarments of another person through the clothing of that person without his or her consent or knowledge with sexual intent." have quoted almost this entire opening paragraph of the bill because I want to underline the fundamental difference between existing legislation in the privacy domain and this bill, with everything it brings new. As we can see, in order for an act to be considered a privacy invasion, the sexual intent OR the intent to invade one's privacy needed to exist. In my opinion, both intents can only greatly limit the legislative area of applicability. Indeed, the intent to invade one's privacy is rather ambiguous: in my opinion, this is rather hard to prove, because one can always say he had no intent to invade privacy. As for the sexual intent, this is also rather limiting, because it strictly mentions filming the body or the undergarments of another person. Thus, there are so many cases that will actually evade the law in question.
The bill presented by Assembly member Jackson thus comes to complete the existing legislation by eliminating both the sexual intent and the intent to invade the occupant's privacy. Additionally, the bill comes to address the issue of surveillance, surveillance cameras and videos. Hence, we are hereby introduced to a new crime, the crime of "unlawful surveillance."
This unlawful surveillance bill may be seen as two fold. For once, it "prohibits the unapproved installation of video cameras in another person's home" and it also "prohibits the distribution of any tapes ore recordings of sexual or other intimate parts of another person that were created as a result of unlawful surveillance."
Of course, a part of the bill refers to those categories of persons and organs excepted from the present bill. These include law enforcement personnel or security systems if there is a notice letting the public know they are under surveillance. These exceptions make sense, because they refer to certain categories of persons that are entitled to use surveillance in their work.
In my opinion, the bill is in itself a step forward from the previous one, however, it seems to have many weak spots, both in terms of implementation and in terms of its theoretical background. If we first refer to the theory behind the bill and to some of the points it covers, we can notice from the first glimpse that it is in no way exhaustive, that is to say, there are many areas that are not covered. As we can see from the text of the bill, unlawful surveillance includes, in the author's opinion, installation of videos in another person's home. What about surveillance practices that don't actually involve the installation of such video devices and spying with their help? What if there is no sexual intent (referring to the bit where the garments are referred to again) and someone simply spies on you and your property from outside, with a professional video camera? Would such a person be liable under the present law? In my opinion, it doesn't seem so. In this case, one cannot state that the current bill best completes the previous one, as privacy is still not a guaranteed right.
I don't want to sound all pessimistic and I will underline some of the areas I do think the bill covers, areas where a progress is indeed made. Let's briefly refer to, for example, some of the videos we are all familiar with over the Internet, with known actors and actresses, such as Paris Hilton or Pamela Anderson. Under the provisions of this bill, almost everybody dealing with the respective tapes may be considered culpable. Those taping the respective videos fall under the previsions of the existing bill, regarding the sexual intent, while those that are spreading them across the Internet are liable because of the "the distribution of any tapes ore recordings of sexual or other intimate parts of another person that were created as a result of unlawful surveillance."
Another thing I am concerned about and rather skeptical regarding its feasibility is the Bill's implementation. This is because of two separate, yet connected, reasons. One of them because I am pretty sure many of the surveillance that is done by police and law enforcements may be deemed just, even if it is a clear attempt to intrude upon one's privacy. As we have seen from the text, it seems to be the bill is rather ambiguous in what the law enforcement provision is concerned. What does "engaged in the conduct of their authorized duties" actually mean? This entire sentence is filled with ambiguity. First of all, the police force and law enforcements need to be engaged in their duty, at the same time, this duty is authorized. Am I to believe that if they have an authorization from their superior, they are entitled to any kind of video surveillance?! How is privacy addressed for here? Isn't this entire process rather subjective?!
The second exception from the Bill refers to security systems. This seems pretty well conceived. The use of security systems is permitted, but with the condition that a notice is put up to let the person know that he is being watched for security reasons. I am not that sure how this makes things better, perhaps through the idea that if you are not comfortable with the fact that you are under video surveillance, you can take your business elsewhere.
There are, however, places where security surveillance is a must. I am referring here to banks, for example. I wouldn't want to enter a philosophical ground here, but I am asking myself, somewhat rhetorically, what if you are not happy with the fact that you are being watched and filmed? Where does the line between what is happening today and 1984, the famous novel by George Orwell, is drawn? Because I have to relate again to the term "authorized" and ask myself what this means. Remembering 1984, the higher authority there, Big Brother, authorized a 24/7 surveillance on everybody
If I am to summarize and analyze the impact this bill may have on the citizens, I will first note that it is certainly a step forward from the previous existing legislation. I have already discussed how that is. It eliminates the sexual intent and introduces the concept of "unlawful surveillance." In my opinion, there doesn't really seem to be any losers from…