Rape victims could lose all privacy
Imagine being sexually assaulted and mustering the courage to go to the police, said Will Gore, only to have them confiscate your phone and rifle through your text messages and Instagram posts. That will be the appalling result of new British police guidelines that require crime victims to agree to surrender their digital devices and social media passwords to officers. If they refuse, police might tell them their case won’t be investigated. The new policy will almost certainly make rape victims less likely to come forward—and only some 15 percent of them go to the police now. Authorities say they don’t want cases to collapse at trial when it emerges that exonerating evidence wasn’t revealed. But the danger is that juries could “read into an online exchange a kind of implicit consent.” By forcing victims’ digital lives into evidence, prosecutors can make “a flirty text message the short skirt of the 21st century.” Once, victims were told what they were wearing had invited rape; now they’ll be told it was what they posted. Yet “rape doesn’t happen in an exchange of messages, however sexually suggestive their content.” It happens in the physical world, when a person’s refusal of consent is ignored. Loss of digital privacy will be “a further violation” of that already traumatized victim.