In the United States, a person’s privacy has a great deal of sway in the legal system. Though security cameras are designed to keep people safe, there are laws about how these types of cameras can be used, especially with regards to hidden cameras. There is a lot of uncertainty with these laws, but there is a general expectation of privacy, and as such there are several things you cannot do with regard to where you place your security cameras. Keep in mind when reading below that laws vary from state to state, and you should always consult a lawyer if you’ve got any questions.
Examples of Some Laws
· Private Areas
There are several areas where hidden cameras are not allowed. These areas include bathrooms, dressing rooms, bedrooms and locker rooms – places where there is a concern for physical privacy. These areas have an “expected privacy” level, implying that the expense of taping in these areas (getting your privacy invaded) is greater than the need to tape in them (security). As such, in as many as thirteen states, it is illegal to place hidden cameras there.
· Workplace Cameras
There are laws that can prevent you from placing hidden cameras within your workplace as well. Despite owning the company, courts have decided more than once that hidden security cameras cannot even lead to the dismissal of an employee, despite catching that employee on film stealing from the company. However, these laws only occur when the company has received permission to use hidden cameras from the union. In cases where permission is granted, hidden cameras can be placed anywhere – including bathrooms – without punishment.
Avoiding Security Camera Legal Issues
Besides those two cases, the law is still often unclear, and most often will allow you to get away with putting a security camera anywhere. The issue is whether or not you can prove that the camera is there for a legitimate safety reason. The 4th amendment (right to privacy) prohibits the use of cameras in private areas such as bathrooms and bedrooms even inside a home that you own, without notifying people that it is present. However, if you can prove that you have a security related reason for placing it there, then the law will no longer apply to you.
As a result, as long as you own or run the location that you have placed the security camera, it is very difficult to be fined or caught for breaking the law, unless that specific act has been deemed illegal in your state due to an invasion of “expected privacy.” There are stories of apartment complexes that have installed hidden security cameras in private areas and have been able to get around any legal action by claiming there was a genuine security concern.
The best way to avoid any legal issues with your security cameras is to first locate your state’s privacy expectation laws, and simply make a judgment call (along with your attorney) as to whether the place where the camera is located has an expectation of privacy. Public rooms such as a living room at home or an eating area at work will not have that expectation, but smaller areas where a person may go to change will.