Iowa state lawmakers are working on a bill that would ban government entities in the state from installing video or audio monitoring devices in public bathrooms, locker rooms or showers in locations such as libraries, schools or other government offices.
Senate Study Bill 1184 was drafted in response to a situation at the Iowa City Public Library where video cameras were installed in the library’s public restrooms as a theft deterrent, reported The Gazette.
That action was challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, and lawmakers agreed the monitoring devices raised a privacy concern and should not be allowed in facilities under the jurisdiction of state or local governmental entities.
“I think that people are entitled to assume a certain degree of privacy, and it’s assumed that you have a certain degree of privacy inside a restroom or public facility,” said Sen. Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines. “I think this is a good decision based upon what we know has occurred over in Iowa City, and I think that we should protect the public.”
Iowa City Public Library Director Susan Craig said the bathroom cameras, which do not record inside stalls, are a safety feature for the library, said The Gazette. She said in the past the cameras have helped police make arrests in cases such as theft and assault crimes.Signs outside the restrooms previously said “security cameras in use.”
Sen. Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, said another concern about such cameras is that the recorded footage is subject to open records laws because it was created by a government agency. “Because these recordings are being made by a government entity, they are subject to FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) and so you’re talking about naked babies being subject to FOIA requests and that’s just not OK,” Sinclair said during a subcommittee meeting.
According to The Gazette, the bill prohibits the state or a political subdivision from using a closed-circuit monitoring device in a toilet, bath or shower facility; locker room; or others place such as a changing table where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Sen. Mark Lofgren, R-Muscatine, the bill’s manager in subcommittee, said the bill requires that upon passage by the Legislature and receiving the governor’s signature, all government entities using such monitoring devices cease doing so and remove them by July 1.