Television star Angie Harmon and privacy activist Susan Wilson joined Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu to announce a bill that would make it illegal to film someone for a “lewd or lascivious purpose” without that person’s consent.
Violators would face an unspecified fine and up to three years of jail time, or 10 years if the filmed subject was under 18.
The bill would not apply to security cameras in private places such as department store dressing rooms, nor would it penalize those filming on city streets or other public places where privacy does not exist.
Landrieu said she wrote the bill after hearing from Wilson, a Monroe, Louisiana, homemaker who found hidden video cameras above her bed and in her shower nearly four years ago.
Wilson found she could not pursue criminal charges against the voyeur because secret video taping, unlike audio surveillance, is illegal in only a handful of states.
“It’s an outrageous, outrageous violation of someone’s privacy and it’s outrageous we don’t have laws prohibiting this,” Landrieu said.
Harmon, best known for her role on the hit TV series “Law and Order,” played Wilson in a TV movie for the Lifetime network.
A privacy expert said the bill would provide a needed update to existing laws, but should be extended to cover potential abuses by government or private surveillance systems.
“It’s getting to the point where every aspect of our lives is now subject to this kind of surveillance … and there’s a lack of procedures governing the use of that technology,” said David Sobel, general counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
ADULTS-ONLY INTERNET DOMAIN
The bill would also require Web sites containing pornography, hate speech or other material deemed harmful to minors to give up their “.com” Web addresses and register under an adults-only Internet domain such as “.prn.”
Such an approach could prove troublesome, as other congressional attempts to regulate online content have been struck down in the courts or run aground on free-speech concerns. Moreover, Internet domains are created and approved not by the U.S. Congress but by an independent, international body.
A bill approved last week by the House of Representatives Commerce Committee would seek to protect children from inappropriate online content by creating a kid-safe Internet space within the United States’ “.us” domain.
A House staffer who has worked on the issue said that Commerce Committee members decided their approach was workable because it would not limit speech online, nor would it seek to impose U.S. decency standards on other countries.