By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5TJT.com
There is an Exxon Gas Station store located in Lakewood, New Jersey with a kosher food section. The store carries kosher nosh, sandwiches, and even all the Jewish magazines. There is also a foreign worker behind the counter who secretly films single girls and married women shopping and paying for their food and posts the videos on the internet. Specifically, he posts the filming that he takes on Tik Tok – a controversial video app that some experts suspect is a spy app by the communist government in China. Apparently, the worker pretends he is texting on his phone while he does the filming.
THE MACHLOKES REGARDING PHOTOS
Although it is morally reprehensible to be posting videos of other people without their permission – is it against halacha? Also, if it is not against halacha – is it against the law? If it is against the law, is doing so a violation of Dina d’Malchusa Dina?
In Sefer Shaarei Aharon (Kuntrus Shaarei Ish p. 29 cited in Vayehi Binsoah by Rabbi Moshe Sofer p. 537) the following incident is related:
The Chazon Ish was once travelling on a ship when he observed people trying to take his photograph. He told them that he did not give them permission to do so. When he noticed that they felt that they did not need his permission to take his picture he further told them, “If you wish to steal – then, by all means, go ahead and steal.”
On the other hand, in Orchos Rabbeinu Vol. III #63, Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlita is quoted in the name of his father, the Steipler Gaon that technically one cannot prohibit another person from taking his picture according to halacha. However, it is a violation of derecho eretz and decency to photograph someone against their will.
There is no question that these girls and women would not want themselves filmed and certainly would not want these videos to appear on the internet.
So, if these sources are correct – according to the Chazon Ish it would be a violation of Halacha, while according to the Steipler, it is morally wrong – but not necessarily forbidden. However, it could very well be that this was only said in reference to a photograph – but not to a video.
It is logical to assume that the Steipler’s rationale in permitting it may involve the idea that it is a regular activity that people generally do. This is not, however, the norm in regard to videoing people and posting it without their permission. Thus, even according to the lenient view it may be forbidden as well.
NEW JERSEY STATE LAW
This author is not a lawyer, but it seems that New Jersey State law only forbids recording in places where there is an expectation of privacy. However, according to HG.org, a legal resource site, it may be recognized as an invasion of privacy – and the young women and married women – may have an actionable tort. In other words, they might perhaps be able to sue if the information on that site is correct.
A big yasher koach to the two Lakewood bochurim concerned for the tznius of bnos Yisroel, who brought this matter to this author’s attention. They themselves are not on the internet – one was told that a video of him appeared on it.
Some have also questioned whether one may use the cholov Yisroel milk near the coffee station, as there is also other milk in an open bottle nearby.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.