In January 2009, the Camera Phone Predator Alert bill was introduced into Congress. It raised serious concerns about privacy rights in the face of digital video technology. In so doing, it brought to light a worrying gap in current privacy regulation – the lack of rules relating to digital video privacy. To date, digital privacy regulation has focused on text records that contain personal data. Little attention has been paid to privacy in video files that may portray individuals in inappropriate contexts, or in an unflattering or embarrassing light. As digital video technology, including inexpensive cellphone cameras, is now becoming widespread in the hands of the public, the regulatory focus must shift. Once a small percentage of online content, digital video is now appearing at an exponential rate. This is largely due to the growth of online social networking platforms such as YouTube and Facebook. Sharing video online has become a global phenomenon, while the lack of effective privacy protection for these images has become a global problem. Digital video poses four distinct problems for privacy, arising from: de-contextualization, dissemination, aggregation, and permanency of video information. While video shares some of these attributes with text, its unique qualities necessitate a separate study of video privacy regulation. This article identifies a rationale for, and critiques suggested approaches to, digital video privacy. It argues that legal regulation, without more, is unlikely to provide necessary solutions. Instead, it advocates a new multi-modal approach consisting of a matrix of legal rules, social norms, system architecture, market forces, public education, and non-profit institutions.

Publication Title


Included in

Law Commons