Senate Bill Would Make 'Video Voyeurism' A Federal Crime

By Matt Pyeatt | July 7, 2008 | 8:28pm EDT

Capitol Hill (CNSNews.com) - Secretly videotaping a person in intimate situations without that person's consent is now legal in 42 states, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said Tuesday on Capitol Hill. A new law introduced by Landrieu would not only make "video voyeurism" illegal, it would make it a federal offense.

The Family Privacy Protection Act was inspired by the story of Susan Wilson, the Louisiana woman who fought to make 'video voyeurism' illegal in her state after she was stalked and videotaped by a family friend. Wilson's story is also the focus of a new movie produced by the Lifetime cable network and starring Angie Harmon, better known for her role on NBC's Law & Order.

Wilson and Harmon joined Landrieu in Washington Tuesday as the senator announced her legislation.

"In the privacy of our own homes, none of us should have to wonder whether or not we're being secretly watched - and even recorded," Landrieu said. "Unfortunately, our laws haven't kept up with the new technology that makes this kind of invasion of privacy very easy to accomplish."

Currently, only five states have specific laws banning the act of video voyeurism. California, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi and Ohio currently prohibit the act of filming an individual in a private place, such as a restroom or changing room. Connecticut and New York have similar laws with less scope.

"The legislation I am introducing today helps fill this gaping hole in our privacy laws, so that if someone is secretly watching you, under this bill it will be a crime punishable by law," Landrieu said.

Harmon said she was motivated to play the role of Susan Wilson because she has her own understanding of the loss of privacy. Harmon said images taken from a video of her marriage to New York Giants football star Jason Sehorn ended up on tabloids across the country.

Harmon warned it is not easy to detect many of the cameras, which she said are often "the size of a pencil lead" and frequently located in public restrooms.

Video voyeurism is a legitimate worry, Harmon insisted.

"This is going on today. This is happening right now. This is happening to your wives,
your mothers, your children, your teenage daughters and it has to be stopped."

Landrieu said she hopes the Senate Judiciary Committee will be able to look at examples of voyeurism available on the Internet to understand the reality of the problem.

Wilson said Landrieu's bill would "help provide victims and their families with much-needed protection and ensure some accountability for those who violate the privacy of
others."

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