Tanning salons are a multi-billion-dollar industry in the United States, and their most frequent users are females between the ages of 16 and 29. While many young women enjoy the aesthetic appeal of a tan, the nature of tanning salons requires them to be fully or nearly unclothed in a public place, which does put privacy at risk. Violations of privacy in tanning salons appear to be rare, but they do occur.

Video Cameras

Perhaps the most immediate threat to a tanning customer’s privacy is a hidden video camera. There have been a few documented cases of this type of privacy violation. According to Wired magazine, in Pennsylvania in 2010, a woman discovered a video of herself disrobing on a porn website, allegedly taken from a camera hidden in the ceiling of a tanning booth. According to Savannah, Georgia’s, local news station WTOC, in that city in 2007 a salon owner’s fiance was arrested after a female customer discovered a video camera in a supposedly private tanning room.

Incomplete Partitions

One privacy issue arises when there are incomplete partitions in tanning booths; for instance, when a door or partition wall does not reach all the way to the ceiling or floor. Salt Lake City’s ABC4 reported that in early 2011, while dressing, one tanning customer in Utah spotted a cell phone over the door of her tanning booth. It was aimed by a man standing on a chair in an adjacent booth. While it’s hard to know how common this type of incident might be, it is cause enough for some salons to require separate men and women’s tanning sections.

Inadequate Window Dressings

As reported by the Oregonian news outlet in 2010, a 21-year-old woman unsuccessfully sued a tanning salon in Tualatin for not adequately providing privacy in tanning rooms. Windows that she had mistaken for one-way were in fact regular, two-way windows, and signage instructing customers to close the blinds were supposedly not clearly marked or visible. Although more isolated than video camera or improper partitions, this could be a privacy issue for more tanning customers if owners do not clearly explain or denote that blinds should be closed.

Improving Privacy

While salon owners should do their part to provide a safe and private environment for tanning, it is apparently growing more difficult in the modern world of cellphone cameras and YouTube videos. Tanning customers should be aware of their surroundings and possible risks, and decline to patronize businesses that do not prioritize customer privacy. Salons that offer fully enclosed booths and gender-separated sections tend to be less vulnerable to privacy violations than those without.