Journal of Information & Privacy Law

Video Surveillance in Public Places

By Sarah Tanaka on Monday, September 14th, 2015
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With the proliferation of video surveillance in public, including retail establishments, automated bank teller machines, and road intersection, it is unlikely that an individual’s expectation of privacy in public is reasonable.  Vo v. City of Garden Grove, 115 Cal. App. 4th 425, 449.  However, is this an acceptable standard?

Generally, there is no invasion of privacy if the surveillance is viewing, observing, or recording “matters which occur in a public place or a place otherwise open to the public eye.”  Fogel v. Forbes, Inc., 500 F. Supp. 1081, 1087 (E.D. Pa. 1980) (citing Restatement (Second) of Torts s 652B, comment c. (1977)).  Government and businesses use video surveillance to enhance security and minimize crime, a legitimate business concern.  A delicate balance must be maintained in using video surveillance to protect the common good interest in combating crime in public places and protecting citizens from the unethical uses of video surveillance.

For example the court was faced with balancing these concerns when an employer installed a hidden video camera after becoming concerned that someone suspected of criminal activity had gained unauthorized access to the employer’s workplace. Nelson v. Salem State Coll., 446 Mass. 525, 528 (2006).Unknowingly, an employee after business hours had applied sunburn lotion to her chest, and once changed clothes, in view of the camera. Id. at 529-30 (2006).  This court found that the employee had no objectively reasonable expectation of privacy in her workplace, which was visible to passersby through its windows.  Id. at 533-34 (2006).  Courts will have to continue to address this problem as the prevalence and inexpensive use of the technology continues to expand.

 

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