Security Cameras: Is Your Setup Legal?

By Mitch Monsen
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When installing a home security system, the question of security cameras locations will naturally arise. You may want to keep a home security camera to observe the front door and garage area and a few to monitor high-traffic areas in the house. You may place security cameras by your business’s cash register and near some of the more valuable items you sell.

But what if you own a clothing store and have problems with customers stealing merchandise by putting it on under their normal clothes in the dressing rooms? What if you want to discourage your errant teenager from sneaking out of the house by placing a camera in their bedroom?

These types of situations can become legal battlegrounds if those involved are not careful. While we aren't permitted to give legal advice, we here at Top Ten Reviews have assembled a few key points to remember when you're setting up your own home security system.

Residential Security Cameras – What is Legal?

If you are installing a video surveillance system to monitor your home, it can be difficult to place the cameras legally. As a general rule, monitoring someone without their knowledge or consent is illegal when they are in an area that provides a reasonable expectation of privacy. This includes – but may not be limited to – bathrooms, bedrooms or changing rooms.

It may also be illegal to record video or audio in public areas without a sign designating that you are doing so. These laws vary by state, so be sure you're familiar with the laws regarding covert video recording in your state. It is often legal to record someone without their consent if only video is involved; audio recording without a party’s knowledge has far more regulations than video under wiretap laws. For this reason, many of the home security systems on our lineup allow only one camera to record audio at a time, as it is almost always illegal to record another person’s conversation without their permission.

Commercial Security Cameras – What is Legal?

For small businesses, the same rules apply for home security cameras, though they are slightly less stringent. In any area where a person could have a reasonable expectation of privacy, video surveillance without notice or permission is illegal. This includes bathrooms, dressing rooms, hotel rooms and, occasionally, elevators.

As businesses are more public by nature, however, it is much easier to legally place cameras to observe the premises. Audio is, once again, more strict. In most cases, it's illegal to record another person’s conversation without their permission. For specific information about the laws concerning these practices in your state, consult a local attorney.

There are several legal and safe applications of security camera systems, but it’s possible that your current setup may be breaking surveillance laws unwittingly.

*Please consult local authorities if you have any questions or concerns about the legality of your security system so that you and your visitors are protected.

 
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