The Tye Clementi case is a real test of privacy

October 1, 2010 |

The New York Times ran a story about Tyler Clementi committing suicide three days after his roomates videotaped and streamed online him engaged in a consensual sexual act with a male.  Mr Clementi’s roommate, Dharun Ravi, 18, and another classmate, Molly Wei, 18, had each been charged with two counts of invasion of privacy for using ”the camera to view and transmit a live image” of Mr Clementi.

The most severe charges carry a maximum sentence of five years in jail.   Mr Ravi was charged with two additional counts of invasion of privacy for attempting a similar live feed on the internet on September 21, the day before the suicide. A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office said the investigation was continuing.

In the follow up story there is a significant debate at Rutgers on what if any other protections can be put in place to protect student privacy.

In Victoria the actions are probably a breach of the Surveillance Devices Act 1999 which provides at section 7(1):

” a person must not knowingly … use … an optical surveillance device to record visually or observe a private activity

to which the person is not a party, without the express or implied consent of each party to the activity.”

All of that is predicated on the prosecuting authority pressing charges.  What if someone wanted to bring a civil action.  The facts probably fit within the breach of confidence action under Giller v Procopets. It would be better if the legislature, State or Federal, adopted the ALRC, NSWLRC or the VLRC reports on Privacy and legislate a statutory tort of privacy.

Leave a Reply