Hidden camera bill too broad, opponents say
A bid to limit use of hidden cameras will be reworked before legislators consider it again.
Sen. Bernice Mathews, D-Sparks, introduced a bill that could have limited everything from photographing sporting events with a long lens to the serious offenses it’s intended to address, like hidden cameras in restrooms.
Mathews said she introduced the bill at the behest of constituents who were upset at being filmed for a television news story by someone using a small, hidden camera.
She isn’t trying to ban all hidden cameras, but says people should be notified if they are being used, and camera operators should get the permission of those they tape.
“You need to get permission,” said Mathews, adding she uses hidden cameras at her business but posts a warning they’re in use. “As long as you tell people, they can be on notice.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee discussed the bill Monday and were told by representatives for private investigators, police, casinos and the press that it’s too broad and would hamstring legitimate work efforts.
“The way this bill is written, if you have a news photographer in a press box at a football game using a long-range lens, he would have to get everybody’s permission before he shoots because technically, the camera is concealed,” said Kent Lauer, executive director of the Nevada Press Association.
Michael Rizer, owner of Gold Coast Agency, a private investigation firm, said 85 percent of his group’s work involves surreptitious filming. He said the bill needs a clause clarifying such work is allowed.
Likewise, spokesmen for the Nevada Resort Association and various law enforcement agencies said they’ll work for language specifying their groups can use video surveillance.
Judiciary Committee members gave a mixed reaction to the bill, saying they understand the need for privacy but aren’t willing to prohibit all hidden filming and photography outright.
“You shouldn’t be able to go and spy on someone without justification,” said Judiciary Committee Chairman Mark James, R-Las Vegas. “I think it’s appropriate for the government to take some steps for the privacy rights of citizens, otherwise everyone’s life is just going to be an open book.”
Sen. Maurice Washington, R-Sparks, said he’s worried about the bill’s impact on the private lives of public figures, noting campaigns can get nasty.
“I’m fearful, because what’s private and what’s not private?” he asked. “Maybe the boundaries need to be more narrowly defined.”
Sen. Terry Care, a Democrat from Las Vegas and a former TV news director, said banning hidden cameras could muzzle news gathering efforts. Plus, hidden cameras aren’t that prevalent, he noted.
“I think it’s a tactic of last resort,” he said. “Sometimes, it’s the only way to get a story.”
James said he will head a subcommittee that will revamp the bill and address the concerns aired Monday. No dates for those work sessions were discussed.
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