ACLU of Iowa Applauds Passage of Bathroom Privacy Bill

Affiliate: ACLU of Iowa
April 19, 2017 4:45 pm

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Iowa City, Iowa —The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa today commended Iowa lawmakers for stepping in to protect the privacy of citizens in government-owned bathrooms and locker rooms. This afternoon they passed a bill that prohibits government entities from videotaping people in areas where they can expect privacy. SF 499 now goes before the Governor.

The ACLU had been negotiating with library and city administration on behalf of Iowa City resident Kellsie Pepponi, who was concerned when she found out the Iowa City Public Library was recording her in the women’s bathrooms. 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.

The library had agreed to modify signage to some degree, but ultimately refused to take down the cameras or disclose to residents that footage was deemed a public record, which is when the ACLU asked legislators to step in and protect patrons from surveillance in the bathroom.

Because the footage is being collected by a government entity, it is public record for anyone to request and view.

The ACLU made such a request and reviewed footage of the bathrooms of the Iowa City library. 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.

The legislation covers more than just libraries. It also prevents video and audio surveillance of other specified private areas of state and local government buildings, including a toilet, bath or shower facility, locker room, diaper changing area, or other space where a person has an expectation of privacy.

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.”

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The ACLU of Iowa is a private, non-partisan organization that fights to advance civil liberties for all. It is the state affiliate of the national American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU prides itself in upholding everyone’s civil liberties, no matter who they are or what they believe. We work to assure the rights of all Iowans—from atheists to devout Christians, from labor unions to businesspeople and more—to make sure the constitutional rights of all are preserved. For more information, please go to

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