Better protection from compromising and disrespectful photos

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Protection of privacy regarding photos Better protection from compromising and disrespectful photos

In future anyone taking photos or videos of fatal accident victims, or distributing material of this sort is to be penalised. Likewise, taking illicit photos under a person’s clothes (upskirting and downblousing) will be a crime, the Cabinet has decided. The German Criminal Code will now be amended accordingly.

2 min reading time

Emergency services at the scene of a motorway accident. One officer waves at traffic on the opposite carriageway to move on.

In future anyone taking photos or videos of fatal accident victims will be committing a crime

Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Rene Priebe

The cameras integrated in smart phones means that all users can take high quality photos at any time, unobtrusively. The result is that increasingly the rights of the individuals being photographed are being violated. The German government is responding to this phenomenon by amending the country’s Criminal Code and improving privacy protection in conjunction with taking photographs.

Fatal accident victims

The amendment to the German Criminal Code addresses onlookers, who take photos or make videos of fatal accident victims at the scene of the accident and distribute these. To date only living persons have enjoyed this protection. In future taking photos or making videos of deceased individuals is also to be penalised, as is the distribution of material of this sort using channels like social media.

"Upskirting" and "downblousing"

In addition, the German government is addressing privacy violations in the form of what is known as "upskirting" or "downblousing". These are unauthorised photos, generally taken covertly under the skirt or down the top of another person. Photos and videos of this sort are often taken in public, on escalators for instance, and are then posted in chatrooms or even sold. To date it has only been illegal to take photos of this sort in a home or a facility like a changing room.

Fines and prison sentences

The draft legislation makes it a crime to take photos of this sort. There will also be penalties for using and distributing photos of this sort to third parties, for instance through social media. To this end the German Criminal Code will be supplemented to extend the protection against compromising and disrespectful photos to deceased individuals and to cover illicit photos that violate the privacy of the person photographed. Anyone breaking the law risks a prison sentence of one to two years, with the minimum penalty being a fine.

The bill to supplement the German Criminal Code realises a provision of the coalition agreement. The bill does not need the approval of the second chamber, or Bundesrat.