August 1, 2012

Summary of statute(s): Alaska’s eavesdropping laws prohibit the use of any electronic devices to hear or record private conversations without the consent of at least one party to the conversation. Further, the state criminalizes the disclosure of information obtained without such consent. The state’s hidden camera law only applies to taking nude or partially nude pictures of subjects without their consent.

In-person conversations: A reporter may tape any in-person conversation with a subject, as the state requires the consent of just one party to the conversation. Alaska Stat. Ann. § 42.20.310. The state’s highest court has long held that the eavesdropping statute was intended to prohibit only third-party interception of communications and thus doesn’t apply to a participant in a conversation. Palmer v. Alaska, 604 P.2d 1106 (Alaska 1979).

Electronic communications: Similarly, using a device to record conversations over electronic communications such as telephones is allowed with the consent of at least one party to the conversation. Alaska Stat. Ann. § 42.20.310(b). That consent includes that of the reporter initiating such electronic communication. Because the provision of the statute dealing with wireless communications applies to “any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data or intelligence” of any nature, consent likewise is required to disclose the contents of text or e-mail messages sent between wireless devices. Alaska Stat. Ann. § 42.20.390.

Hidden cameras: The state law applies only to images — whether film or photograph, in print or electronic — that include nudity. A person who views or produces a picture of a nude or partially nude person without consent commits the crime of “indecent viewing or photography.” Alaska Stat. Ann. § 11.61.123.

Criminal penalties: Violation of the eavesdropping statute is a misdemeanor carrying a penalty of up to a year in jail. Alaska Stat. Ann. § 42.20.330. Additionally, those convicted of the statute face a fine of up to $10,000. Alaska Stat. Ann. § 12.55.035. The crime of indecent viewing or photography is a misdemeanor if the subject viewed is an adult, and a felony if the subject is a minor. Alaska Stat. Ann. § 11.61.123(f).

Disclosing recordings: A person who intercepts a private conversation cannot legally divulge or publish the information without consent of at least one party. Alaska Stat. Ann. § 42.20.300. Similarly, any private communication a person knows or reasonably should know was obtained illegally cannot be divulged or used for anyone’s benefit. Alaska Stat. Ann. § 42.20.310.