Since no specific right to privacy is defined in the United State Constitution, what constitutes an invasion of privacy varies among jurisdictions. As to videotaping and photography, however, there is a general rule common to all states including New York. The implied right to use imaging devices in public places and the portions of another person's property in which the public is welcome does not extend into any area they consider private .
Video Violations of Individual Privacy
In New York, you may videotape a subject without her consent, unless she has a reasonable expectation of privacy, in which case it becomes trespassing. A non-permissive recording of another person's image for voyeuristic, profitable, defamatory or exploitative purposes constitutes a Class D felony, punishable by two to seven years in jail. The statute, known as Stephanie’s Law, was engendered by miniaturization technology. For months, a woman was spied upon by her landlord through a tiny video cameras concealed inside her apartment's smoke alarms. Unfortunately, the predator could only be prosecuted for misdemeanor trespassing, as the law punishing outside-the-walls voyeurism as a felony at the time hinged on the phrase, “through windows.”
Enacted in 2003, Stephanie’s Law has wide applications, covering violations ranging from peeping Toms to wild party pictures and school kids “up-skirting” classmates with their cell phone cams. Hopefully, this broad statutory language is tempered by prosecutorial discretion.
The Public Videotaping Police Officers
Unlike the celebrated arrests of citizens in Maryland, Florida and New Hampshire who videotaped on-duty law enforcement officers, it is perfectly legal to do so in New York. Because of a video recording, a New York City policeman was terminated for roughing up a bicyclist.
Police Officers Videotaping the Public
Public videotaping without a subject’s consent works both ways in New York. Video surveillance cameras have been fixtures in New York City since the 1990s. More than 4,500 of them are visible from street level in Manhattan alone. Public videography is controversial issue, pitting public safety against privacy rights and national security versus impinged civil liberties. As crime deterrents, the cameras are of certain benefit. Conversely, the Big Brother implications are chilling to others. As summarized by Jay Stanley of the ACLU, “We are heading toward a total surveillance society, in which your every move is recorded by some computer."