With social media applications such as Instagram, SnapChat, and Facebook, it seems like people document almost every moment of their lives online. But what the social media savvy may not know is that these posts could expose them to criminal liability.
A Playboy Playmate is learning this the hard way after taking photographs in a gym locker room and uploading them to SnapChat. One of the photos captured a naked woman using a gym shower. After the photograph went viral, police began investigating whether the Playmate’s conduct violated California’s “Disorderly conduct: invasion of privacy” law. The law holds that:
“[A]ny person who uses a concealed camcorder, motion picture camera, or photographic camera of any type, to secretly videotape, film, photograph, or record by electronic means, another, identifiable person who may be in a state of full or partial undress, for the purpose of viewing the body of, or the undergarments worn by, that other person, without the consent or knowledge of that other person, in the interior of a bedroom, bathroom, changing room, fitting room, dressing room, or tanning booth, or the interior of any other area in which that other person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, with the intent to invade the privacy of that other person is guilty of disorderly conduct, which is a misdemeanor.”
Despite the Playmate not knowing the woman, and claiming that her post was not meant to be malicious, her actions fall within the conduct penalized by California’s law. The woman, who remained anonymous for nearly two months, was identified this past weekend and has agreed to cooperate with the police in pressing charges. If convicted, the Playmate could face up to six months in jail.
This law was enacted in 2013 in response to the rising number of instances of revenge porn– that is, distributing a sexually explicit image of another, typically an ex-lover, without the person’s consent. To date, 34 states have similar laws. But, as this situation shows, the laws are not limited to malicious conduct and can be imposed on anyone who publishes a photo of another in a state of undress if that person is in a place where he/she has a reasonable expectation of privacy and has not consented to the photo.