The Reasonableness of Remaining Unobserved: A Comparative Analysis of Visual Surveillance and Voyeurism in Criminal Law

22 Pages Posted: 18 Mar 2018 Last revised: 1 Feb 2019

See all articles by Bert-Jaap Koops

Bert-Jaap Koops

Tilburg University - Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society (TILT)

Bryce Clayton Newell

University of Oregon - School of Journalism and Communication; Tilburg University - Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society (TILT)

Andrew J. Roberts

Melbourne Law School

Ivan Škorvánek

Tilburg University - Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society (TILT)

Maša Galič

Tilburg University - Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society

Date Written: January 12, 2018

Abstract

The criminalization of offensive, privacy‐intrusive behavior is an important form of privacy protection. However, few studies exist of visual observation in criminal law. We address this gap by researching when nonconsensual visual observation is deemed harmful enough to trigger criminal sanctions, and on what basis the law construes the “reasonableness of remaining unobserved,” through a nine‐country comparative study. We distinguish between voyeurism‐centric approaches (focusing largely on nudity and sex) and broader, intrusion‐centric approaches (such as observation inside closed spaces). Both approaches explicitly or implicitly reflect “reasonable” privacy expectations, listing criteria for situations in which people can reasonably expect to remain unobserved or unrecorded. We present a framework for criminalizing non-consensual visual observation, encompassing factors of technology use, place, subject matter, and surreptitiousness, supplemented by factors of intent, identifiability, and counter‐indicators to prevent over‐criminalization. This framework is relevant for protecting visual aspects of privacy in view of individuals' underlying autonomy interests.

Keywords: Voyeurism, Visual Observation, Crime, Criminal Law, Privacy, Law, Comparative Law, Privacy Law

Suggested Citation

Koops, Bert-Jaap and Newell, Bryce Clayton and Roberts, Andrew J. and Škorvánek, Ivan and Galič, Maša, The Reasonableness of Remaining Unobserved: A Comparative Analysis of Visual Surveillance and Voyeurism in Criminal Law (January 12, 2018). Law and Social Inquiry, 2018; U of Melbourne Legal Studies Research Paper No. 811. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3142742

Bert-Jaap Koops

Tilburg University - Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society (TILT) ( email )

P.O.Box 90153
Prof. Cobbenhagenlaan 221
Tilburg, 5037
Netherlands

Bryce Clayton Newell (Contact Author)

University of Oregon - School of Journalism and Communication ( email )

Eugene, OR
United States

Tilburg University - Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society (TILT)

P.O. Box 90153
TILT
Tilburg, Noord Brabant 5000 LE
Netherlands

Andrew J. Roberts

Melbourne Law School ( email )

185 Pelham Street
Carlton
Victoria, 3052
Australia

Ivan Škorvánek

Tilburg University - Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society (TILT) ( email )

Tilburg
Netherlands

Maša Galič

Tilburg University - Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society ( email )

Tilburg, 5000LE
Netherlands

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