March 13, 1997 in Nation/World

Lawmakers Take A Look At Voyeurism Anti-Peeping Bill Lets Stores Tape Dressing Rooms

Chris Mulick Staff writer

A proposal to crack down on peeping Toms also would allow stores to videotape customers in dressing rooms.

A bill that passed the House would make voyeurism illegal. But it also would permit video cameras in store dressing rooms as long as they are used for security purposes and notices about the cameras are posted.

Currently, there is no state law against spying on people undressing in their homes. There also is no law saying whether stores can place video cameras in dressing rooms, although people could sue if their right to privacy were violated.

The Senate passed a version of the anti-voyeurism bill, SB5656, Wednesday that doesn’t address whether cameras in dressing rooms are allowed.

Lawmakers must try to reconcile the two bills before the measure can be sent to Gov. Gary Locke for his signature or veto.

Rep. Kathy Lambert, R-Woodinville, said she added the video camera provision in House Bill 1441 after a national TV program reported that some stores and tanning salons videotape customers undressing.

She didn’t want to tell businesses whom they could or couldn’t videotape, but she thought customers should know if there are cameras in dressing rooms.

Rep. Larry Sheahan, R-Rosalia, said legislators never considered banning videotaping in dressing rooms, although he said he might be willing to consider it in future sessions.

“As far as I’m concerned, (stores) shouldn’t be videotaping,” said Sheahan, who chairs the House Law and Justice Committee. “Clearly, when someone goes into a dressing room, they have an expectation of privacy.”

Other provisions in the bill define voyeurism as viewing individuals disrobing in places where they would have a “reasonable expectation of privacy.”

In Spokane, security officials at The Bon Marche and Nordstrom declined to comment on whether they videotape customers, though a Nordstrom corporate official said the store does not.

Lambert said she called eight department stores before submitting her videotape amendment and representatives of all eight said they don’t videotape customers.

Rep. Larry Crouse, R-Spokane Valley, voted in favor of the House bill, but said he assumed laws already were on the books allowing videotaping in dressing rooms.

“I might have taken a bad vote and not known it,” Crouse said. “That happens in this place.”

Sheahan said other House members likely don’t know what current law allows. “I’m not even sure what it is,” he said.

The American Civil Liberties Union and a group called the American Privacy Protection Association both oppose the House bill.

The only criticism of the Senate version, which passed by a 36-13 vote, was that its language is too broad, and could penalize people who casually look into windows of other homes.

“This is too much regulation and it’s not clearly defined what is wrong and what is right,” said Sen. Michael Heavey, D-Seattle.

, DataTimes

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