Video Surveillance: Know The Rules and Your Rights


I am straying  a little from “home” today, but I thought this topic is an important one and needs some attention. I hope you agree, or disagree. Feel free to comment below.

I think George Orwell had it right. In his book “1984” George talks about a futuristic society where among other things our every move is being watched by “The Party”. It seems like every place you go now days there is a video surveillance camera recording our every move. Am I the only one who wonders if this is legal, and where does it stop?


They tell us it is to protect us, to keep us safe, but where does that effort and our rights to privacy begin? Looking into  the delicate subject of video surveillance in this day and age is somewhat confusing, but I will try to bring some clarity to  it.

Video and audio recording are two separate issues when it comes to the law. We will begin by talking about video first.  Generally it is legal to record in your home, where the use of “nanny cams” has exploded. The exception to this would be  where a person would expect privacy such as a bathroom or a bedroom when the nanny or person is living there. You  must also remember it is illegal in every state to record someone with the purpose or intent of blackmail.

The same general rules apply outside your home and in most public places. Steer clear of areas where people might have a reasonable expectation of privacy.  Examples of these areas are but not limited to restrooms, locker rooms, changing rooms and other “private areas”. One confusing area could be your yard. If the camera’s field of vision also included your neighbor’s yard, and depending on any fencing or privacy screens that you by passed by the location of your camera.

In the workplace especially small businesses it is legal to have camera’s and not tell the employees. In larger businesses this may be a negotiating point with the appropriate workers union.

Audio recording is a little clearer than video.  It is illegal to record a conversation by voice recorder of video camera with sound unless at least one person consents to the recording in most states. Those states requiring both parties to consent are California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington. Hawaii has a double standard, requiring one person consent in a public place but both parties consent in a private area.

It is almost always illegal to record a phone conversation even in your own home without the recorded person/s consent, federal wiretapping and all.

One other really confusing area and one that will need a lot of clarification is the use of and recording of from drones. Probably a safe bet to follow the same requirements as if you were recording from a “land based” video camera.

There you have it, a general outline of the laws as they currently stand. Remember Big Brother is watching you! Please comment below!!

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