Two Verizon employees allegedly copied intimate photographs from a female customer’s phone. According to the complaint, the two men worked at a Verizon store in Bartow, Florida, where employee Joshua Stuart, 24, helped a local waitress transfer her data from her old handset to a new smartphone. He has been accused of taking a copy of some of the pictures from her phone without her knowledge, and then sharing them with a friend.
The employees have been accused of revealing the pics to another customer, a local bartender. The bartender came into the same store sometime later for an upgrade. It is alleged that Stuart offered to show the bartender some “banging pictures,” but could not find them on his phone. He then called over a coworker, Gregory Lampert, 26, who police say showed the bartender a copy of the woman’s pictures. The bartender knew the woman and police were called. Lampert was charged with dealing in stolen property.
Now this case does not belong in the criminal court system. The female customer had something called a “diminished expectation of privacy” on two counts. When you take photos on your cell phone, there is a higher than average probability they will be shared. In fact, I would bet dollars to donuts that the waitress had already shared the pictures with someone by texting or “sexting” them via her phone. Once those photos were out there, they were no longer hers. Further, Verizon already has total access to their customers’ phones. Read the contract. No really, you’d be surprised. Not only can Verizon scan the contents of their customers’ phones at anytime, Verizon can create a database of the contents of their customers’ phones and use the data however Verizon wants.
You also have to consider that the woman or “victim” handed over her phone, loaded with intimate pictures, to a complete stranger and asked that stranger to make a copy. The woman had a responsibility to understand that in order to transfer the data, the employee first had to download the data to a computer, which he did. Ironically, when I see these kinds of cases, it is usually the owner of the phone who is in trouble, not Verizon or its employees.
Yes, the Verizon employees violated the woman’s trust. However, their actions were not criminal. They were civil. If a person takes intimate photographs and then distributes them, he or she can hardly claim that the pics were stolen. On the other hand, under civil law, the woman has a very good claim against Verizon. If she was smart, she would ask the state to drop the criminal charges and then she would go after Verizon in civil court. If Verizon can easily copy and distribute the contents of its customers’ phones, there is something wrong with the way Verizon does business. This woman has a very good opportunity to improve all our privacy rights, but not through the Polk County criminal court.