When it comes to security cameras, it can be difficult to know exactly what is legal and what isn’t. On one hand, a security camera is popular tool to use against crime, but many people question not only the legality of using one, but also whether it is morally correct to use them.
In the United States, most recordings are legal to use, both with and without consent of the party being recorded. Invasion of privacy laws deal specifically with areas of the law dealing with expected privacy. For example, recording someone inside of their home would be an invasion of privacy. Public bathrooms, locker rooms and changing rooms are also areas that are public, but are supposed to be areas where individuals can expect privacy.
Where Cameras are Prohibited
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The privacy laws in 13 states prohibit unauthorized installation of cameras in areas that are considered to be private. Within the privacy laws, a private place can be described as a place where individuals can expect to be safe from cameras; again, these are typically taken to be places such as locker rooms, changing rooms and bathrooms.
Fourth Amendment rights say that bathrooms, motel/hotel rooms and changing rooms are areas where the public has a reasonable expectation to privacy. Several states prohibit the act of trespassing onto private property in order to conduct surveillance of the people within the property.
Cameras and Private Property
In most states, it is illegal to record a conversation with video or audio recordings if at least one of the parties being recorded does not know that they are being recorded. For example, it is OK and legal to record a conversation you are having with someone else, because you know you are being recorded. It is not necessary to notify the other individual that they are being audio recorded.
If you are worried about areas that are legal to post your cameras, contact your local law enforcement agency and ask them where on your property you can place a camera. You may want to put up signs that indicate there is a camera located on the property, although you don’t have to legally inform the public of where. You should avoid using a camera where there is a reasonable amount of privacy expected, like bathrooms, changing rooms and more. Also, be careful about placing your security camera where someone else’s property may be in view. A good example might be the sidewalk next to your home. You may be trying to record activity on your sidewalk; but if the camera is angled in the right direction, you may have a view into your neighbor’s home, which would not be legal.
If your local law enforcement agency isn’t helpful with the legalities of where you can place security cameras on your property, try speaking to a lawyer, explaining where and why you would like to place a camera on your property and the lawyer can help you decide if what you want to do is legal.