Today the Iowa Legislature did the right thing by passing a bill that will protect the privacy of people using government bathrooms.
SF 499 now heads to the Governor's office. It prohibits the videotaping of people in private areas of state and local government, including toilets, bath or shower facilities, locker rooms, and diaper changing areas.
The law came about after Iowa City resident Kellsie Pepponi became concerned when she found out the Iowa City Public Library was filming patrons in the women’s bathroom. Security cameras do not record in the bathroom stalls but do videotape in the areas around the sinks, where people often dress or perform private personal hygiene tasks. This is further an invasion of privacy because footage of spaces in government entities, such as the library, are public record for anyone to request and view.
The ACLU of Iowa became involved on Pepponi's behalf and the library had agreed to modify signage to some degree. But ultimately the library refused to take down the cameras or disclose to residents that footage was deemed a public record.
The ACLU made such request for the footage of the Iowa City library bathroom, since it is a public record. It was disturbed to find footage of people in various states of undress, including children, and people “adjusting” themselves after leaving the toilet stall. These children and adults were obviously not aware that they were being videotaped and that the footage was public record.
Pepponi said she is gratified that the bill will protect her and other library patrons. "I felt violated to realize that I had been filmed in the bathroom of the Iowa City public library. I knew that I had to stand up and point out how wrong it was to record me in the bathroom without my knowledge and consent. I am so grateful that lawmakers took action. People don't assume that they are being recorded by their local government in the bathroom. Add to that that anyone can just go and view the footage. That’s ridiculous.”
ACLU of Iowa Legal Director Rita Bettis said, “After years of pushing the library to take down the cameras from inside the public bathroom, we are relieved that lawmakers have acted to finally require the library board to remove them. We are very thankful to our client for being willing to stand up for her own privacy rights and the rights of other library patrons. We’re also glad that the Iowa Legislature realized that this was a wider problem and intervened to protect Iowans from this type of bizarre and invasive surveillance in private spaces.”