Viral Target video raises consent question

The viral video of a man wanting to use a Target bathroom is a reminder that people need to get consent before hitting start.

St. Petersburg, FL -- Have you seen the recent video on social media taken by a St. Petersburg man who walks into a Target store to test the retail chain's new gender-neutral bathroom policy?

Regardless of what you may think of the controversial policy itself, the case may have you thinking twice about recording and posting such videos, even if you're just trying to make a point. 

It was clear from the start that Andy Park was trying to conceal his cell phone as he entered the Bay Pines Target store in Pinellas County.

“Let me just put this phone in my shirt pocket here,” he can be heard saying at the beginning of the video.

Park says he wanted to raise awareness by testing Target’s new controversial policy when it comes to gender-neutral restrooms.

“I just came by because I wanted to make sure that I was allowed to use the women's room before I went in,” he asks a store worker.

“Yeah. Yeah, that's correct. Yeah,” the workers tells Park.

But within hours of publishing the now-viral video on his Facebook and YouTube pages, Park had taken it down. 

In part, he says, because several members of the LBGT community took offense to the recording, and let Park know it in comments left on his page.

Park says he’s gay, and that he never meant to hurt anyone’s feelings.

“My only point in making the video was to raise awareness. Not to hurt anybody, and certainly not to cause problems,” he said.

Park also admits he took down the video, in part, because someone told him what St. Petersburg media attorney Allison Steele told us. 

“It's not legal to do that here,” said Steele, referring to Park’s secretive tactics.

Laws vary from state to state, but legal experts warn anyone armed with a cell phone and a cause these days, that if you're going to secretly record a conversation in Florida, especially the audio, you better know the rules.

“Everybody whose voice that is going to be captured on the recording needs to give consent. That's the general rule,” said Steele.

“That was also part of the decision, yes,” said Park.

In fact, just recording the audio -- not even publishing it -- can be a felony in Florida. 

There are, however, exceptions. Most of them, dealing with unprotected statements made in public meetings, where there’s no expectation of privacy.

In this particular case, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri does not expect charges will be filed.

The conversation between Park and the Target workers, said the sheriff, could easily be overheard by others, making it an unprotected conversation, even if the store is not considered a public place.

“And you should be on notice that somebody else could be listening to, or using a device to record what you are saying,” said Gualtieri.

More often, said Steele, people will make secret recordings when there's a business dispute. Maybe a divorce, or child custody battle.

But increasingly, with equipment getting smaller, and social media more prevalent, she says it's more commonly citizen journalists who might be taking a legal risk.

Park says he would think twice about doing it again, and offered advice to anyone else who may be thinking about secretly recording a conversation.

“I would say they better know all the rules and regulations,” said Park, “And you need to think through exactly the outcome of posting onto the Internet.”


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