Cuomo signs backyard surveillance bill

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New law creates right to sue a neighbor for recording you in the backyard without permission

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation Wednesday that creates a law allowing someone to sue a neighbor for invasion of privacy for videotaping recreational activities in an adjacent backyard without permission.

“Everyone should be able to feel safe in their own home and in their own backyard,” Cuomo said in a statement. “This legislation will crack down on disturbing behavior and give New Yorkers legal recourse and peace of mind in order to protect their privacy and potentially their own personal safety.”

 The bill was in response to a 2011 incident in Chautauqua County in which a convicted sex offender put up cameras outside his home, with one of them trained on a neighboring family’s backyard. State Sen. Cathy Young, the bill sponsor, told the Times Union last week that the family, which included an 11-year-old boy and 14-year-old daughter, called the police about the surveillance, but authorities couldn’t do anything about it under the law at that time.
 Young said that creating a right to sue for unwanted surveillance of a backyard is a “good first step,” noting that outright criminalization would be a more difficult pursue.

“The backyard is a little bit more public, even though it’s your private property” she said. “That’s why we felt we should go (for) the private right of action first, and see how it works. If there’s still problems that are occurring in the state, then we should look at possible criminal penalties.”

Both homeowners and tenants of a residential property would have the ability to sue if they did not consent to being recorded by someone who set up a camera on an adjoining property with the intent to harass, annoy, alarm or threaten another person.

 Law enforcement surveillance is exempted under the new law.

This effort builds on a 2003 law that made it a felony to videotape someone without their permission in an intimate setting where there would be a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as a bedroom or bathroom.

Cuomo had more than 100 other bills on his desk awaiting action on Wednesday.

He also signed a bill making it a misdemeanor to alter a student’s official records without permission. The law now explicitly covers unauthorized tampering of grade, attendance and disciplinary records, among others.

 

www.timesunion.com

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