The Debate of Law and Ethics in Pubic Spaces

Private spaces are different from public spaces in terms of access and control; public spaces are managed by balancing access and control factors (Bowles, 2015). When in public spaces, people are expected to behave and act in a certain way, based on societies expectations and laws.

In the news recently, a concerning legalisation has caught the attention of many, and started a discussion surrounding what is legal and what is ethical in public spaces. Recently, courts in America, such as those in Washington, Massachusetts and Texas, have ruled that ‘upskirt’ photos are not violating the law. Massachusetts’ highest court has ruled that secretly photographing underneath a person’s clothing is not an illegal practice. In one such case, the high court ruled that the practice is not a violation of the law, because the women being photographed while riding public transport were not nude, nor partially nude. In a similar circumstance, a court in Texas has upheld the ‘constitutional right’ of citizens to photograph strangers as an ‘essential component of freedom of speech’, even if the pictures are taken for the purpose of sexual gratification.

To me, and many other rational-thinking people on the Internet, ‘upskirting’ seems to be a serious form of harassment and a violation of privacy. However, the laws surrounding ‘upskirting’, especially in America, are vague at best. So, are Australian’s protected from this form of harassment? The Australian Privacy Act states that if an individual’s identity is apparent, or can be reasonably ascertained from a photograph or video images, then the use and disclosure of that image is covered by the Privacy Act. But what if these explicit images do not violate a person’s identity? Does this law not apply?

Have you heard any of the news about the legalisation of ‘upskirting’? Do you think that the victims of such harassment should be better supported by the law? Feel free to leave your thoughts and comments down below.


Reference List

Bowles, K 2015 BCM240 Lecture 6: Public Televisions and Personal Devices: 2015 Lecture Slides 31st July 2015, UOW, Semester 1, 2015.


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