About the Article

The emergence of consumer-purchased monitoring devices in shared, intimate spaces presents new challenges to privacy and its protection. Web-enabled video cameras, which allow family members to monitor one another in the name of care, are among the most prevalent technologies in this vein. These cameras have recently gained traction for remote monitoring of vulnerable relatives in nursing homes, where they are intended to detect and deter abuse and neglect in residents’ rooms. But in so doing, cameras can create new privacy vulnerabilities for residents (many of whom have dementia and lack capacity for consent), frontline care workers, roommates in shared rooms, and others. State policymakers are grappling with these issues as they craft laws governing electronic monitoring in these complex public/private spaces, in which policymakers must balance competing—and sometimes irreconcilable—privacy and security interests.

This Article presents a comparative analysis of seven state regimes that regulate the use of monitoring systems in nursing home resident rooms. We find that states attempt to protect privacy through a variety of interlocking privacy constraints: social, technical, and institutional safeguards that restrict how monitoring devices can be introduced and operated. Further, we map key relationships within which stakeholders hold specific privacy interests vis-à-vis one another, and describe how legal regimes do (and do not) address such interests. We consider implications for how privacy is conceptualized and regulated in multirelational social contexts, in which the privacy and security interests of particular stakeholders necessarily impact those of others.

About the Authors

Karen Levy is an Assistant Professor, Department of Information Science, Cornell University and Associated Faculty, Cornell Law School. Lauren Kilgour is a Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Information Science, Cornell University. Clara Berridge is an Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, University of Washington. The authors gratefully acknowledge the Borchard Foundation Center on Law and Aging for its generous support of this research. We thank Helen Nissenbaum, Bryce Newell, D.R. Jones, Scott Skinner-Thompson, Mary Madden, and participants in the 2017 Privacy Law Scholars Conference and the International Association for Gerontology and Geriatrics’ 2017 World Congress for helpful feedback, and Trinh Le and Kim Lee for valuable research assistance.

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The Elder Law Journal

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