Technological harassment: A new way of invading people’s privacy

Peeping Toms have a new advantage that their predecessors did not have access to: technology.

With photo and video capabilities on nearly all cell phones, voyeurism has become significantly easier. Photos can be snapped and within minutes uploaded to the internet. “Upskirting” and “downblousing” are the new trends in voyeurism used to describe secretly videoing or photographing unsuspecting victims under the skirt or down the blouse.

We The Threefold Advocate view such behavior as highly offensive.

Unlike the Peeping Toms of the past, these lurkers have the resources to publicize their footage more than ever before. Lurking has gone public.

“I think there’s a fear among people that you could have an ‘upskirt’ photo taken of you and never realize it. Your crotch could be on the Internet and you may never know about it,” said Executive Director Emily May of ihollaback.org, a website encouraging women to post images and stories of harassers.

The issue came to court on March 5 after charges were brought against Michael Robertson, 32, who was arrested in 2010 for recording upskirt videos and photos on his cell phone of women on a public trolley. Complaints were filed and Robertson was caught after pointing his cell phone under the dress of a female officer.

The court ruled that because the women Robertson photographed were not nude or partially nude, he was not in violation of the law.

In response, Massachusetts lawmakers and prosecutors revised the law.

According to Justice Margot Botsford of the state Supreme Judicial Court, “A female passenger on a MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority) trolley who is wearing a skirt, dress, or the like covering these parts of her body is not a person who is ‘partially nude,’ no matter what is or is not underneath the skirt by way of underwear or other clothing.”

Massachusetts lawmakers have promptly recognized that high-tech peeping is a psychologically damaging crime, an act described by policy expert at the Washington-based National Center for Victims of Crime Ilse Knecht as, “a combination of a kind sexual assault and stalking. It is very harmful.”

We The Threefold Advocate applaud the Massachusetts lawmakers for their swift actions to protect their citizens from voyeurism and hope that other states follow suit. We believe that all citizens have not only a right to life and liberty but to a right of privacy – even in public places.