You Never Know Who’s Watch­ing

Toronto Life - - Editor’s Letter - —Sarah Ful­ford Email: ed­i­tor@toron­to­ Twit­ter: @sarah_ ful­ford

I love how the smart­phone, with its tiny, easyto-ac­cess cam­era, has turned us all into cit­i­zen re­porters, doc­u­ment­ing weird weather events, dra­matic sports mo­ments and, more sig­nif­i­cantly, po­lice of­fi­cers be­hav­ing badly. But the ubiq­uity of high-qual­ity cam­eras has a dark side: it fa­cil­i­tates some un­savoury crim­i­nal be­hav­iour. “Up­skirt­ing,” the act of pho­tograph­ing un­der women’s skirts with­out their knowl­edge while they’re on stairs and es­ca­la­tors, is on the rise all over the world.

It has be­come such a big prob­lem in Ja­pan, with its crowded sub­ways, that smart­phones there are in­ten­tion­ally man­u­fac­tured to make a dis­tinct, audi­ble shut­ter sound with ev­ery photo taken—an ef­fort to dis­cour­age covert pho­tog­ra­phy. In Eng­land, the gov­ern­ment is try­ing to make up­skirt­ing a crim­i­nal of­fence.

Se­ri­ous voyeurs can also buy tiny cam­eras and hide them in al­most any­thing: wal­lets, rings, eye­glasses, pens, light bulbs—you name it. Voyeurs plant cam­eras in de­part­ment-store fit­ting rooms, swim­ming-pool change ar­eas and gym locker rooms. They wait a few hours, or maybe a few days, then re­turn to claim their gad­gets in­con­spic­u­ously. A clever hacker can even turn a stranger’s lap­top into a record­ing de­vice. Po­lice re­port that the num­ber of in­stances where some­one is be­ing recorded un­know­ingly is grow­ing fast—and so is the mar­ket for such con­tent, which can be sold as pornog­ra­phy.

If this has hap­pened to you, it’s likely that you would have no idea. The tech­nol­ogy is so so­phis­ti­cated that peo­ple rarely find out if they’re be­ing watched. When they do, though, it can be trau­matic. A few years ago in Illi­nois, a woman filed a class ac­tion law­suit against a Planet Fit­ness chain for neg­li­gence af­ter hid­den video cam­eras were dis­cov­ered in one of their tan­ning rooms. Around the same time, the Johns Hop­kins Hos­pi­tal paid out a $190-mil­lion set­tle­ment to thou­sands of pa­tients who were se­cretly filmed by a gy­ne­col­o­gist.

Pete Forde, the sub­ject of this month’s cover story, was ar­rested in the spring for pos­sess­ing graphic images of women taken with­out their con­sent. The news came as

a shock to many peo­ple. Forde was some­thing of a man about town. Clever and gre­gar­i­ous, he was a tech en­tre­pre­neur who ran a 3-D image-cap­ture com­pany. He was also a gen­er­ous friend—the type of guy who would lunge to pick up the bar tab. As a voyeur, he used his hack­ing skills to down­load nude pho­tos of many of the women in his so­cial cir­cle.

Kather­ine Laid­law, a fre­quent Toronto Life con­trib­u­tor, was the per­fect per­son to write the Forde story (“In­side the Mind of a Voyeur”). In ad­di­tion to be­ing a smart and dogged re­porter, she had unique in­sight into the case: she knew Forde be­fore his ar­rest and had spent time with him so­cially. She had also met some of his vic­tims and writes au­thor­i­ta­tively about the world they in­hab­ited to­gether. She vividly de­picts the trust and friend­ship they shared be­fore it all fell apart. And she tries to rec­on­cile her im­pres­sions of him with the dis­turb­ing facts of the case.

In the course of re­port­ing her story, she re­peat­edly reached out to Forde for an in­ter­view. At first, she got no re­sponse. But then some­thing sur­pris­ing hap­pened: he agreed to meet with her, to an­swer her ques­tions and to al­low Toronto Life to pho­to­graph him. Kather­ine’s de­scrip­tion of their con­ver­sa­tion, at the end of her ar­ti­cle, is re­mark­able. It’s a rare case of a man ac­cused of a sex-re­lated crime speak­ing hon­estly about what he did and why. It’s one of the many rea­sons I think you’ll find her story as ab­sorb­ing as I did.

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