Congressman Proposes "Anti-Upskirt" Law

Congressman, Peter King (R), of New York State's Third Congressional District, introduced a bill to congress earlier this month that some might call the "Anti-Upskirt Bill." The actual name of the bill is the "Camera Phone Predator Alert Act" (HR 414), and its aim is to make it into law that all camera phones must "make a sound when a photograph is taken."

The primary motivation for this bill is to protect children. The bill's finding states, "Congress finds that children and adolescents have been exploited by photographs taken in dressing rooms and public places with the use of a camera phone." As camera phones have become nearly ubiquitous, the ability for people to take photographs surreptitiously has dramatically increased. A would-be, secret photographer could easily make it appear that he is talking on his phone or looking at the phone's screen when in fact he is really using the phone to take pictures. With no audible queue that a picture is being taken, unwilling subjects--as well as bystanders--might be unaware that pictures are being taken.

The introduction of the camera phone paired with the ever-increasing popularity of the Internet, have produced a steady rise in the dissemination of voyeuristic, photographic images over the last decade or so--many of these images cater to individuals' particular fetishes. Perhaps the most infamous of these types of images are "upskirts," where a picture is shot from below, looking up a woman's skirt--presumably part of the appeal to those who take the pictures as well as those who like to look at these types of images, comes from the fact or assumption that the subject was either not aware that a picture was taken, or at least that she did not grant consent for the photo to be taken. As disturbing as this might be to some people, perhaps the type of surreptitiously-shot images that are the most heinous to the vast majority of people are images of children.

The bill essentially posits that if camera phones were to make a noise indicating that they are taking a picture, they would be far less effective at shooting these voyeuristic images, as the intended subjects and bystanders would become instantly aware that a picture was just taken. The current version of the bill proposes:

"Beginning 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, any mobile phone containing a digital camera that is manufactured for sale in the United States shall sound a tone or other sound audible within a reasonable radius of the phone whenever a photograph is taken with the camera in such phone. A mobile phone manufactured after such date shall not be equipped with a means of disabling or silencing such tone or sound."

The responsibility of enforcing this law would fall upon the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which implies that the onus of compliance will fall exclusively onto the manufactures. This doesn't necessarily address the issue of aftermarket hacks or users performing their own modifications--possibly making it illegal to manufacturer or sell such a phone, but not to own one. As the bill is only a couple of weeks old, it is highly probable that it will go through many changes before and if it is ever up for a vote.