Thinking of adding extra security and privacy to your home? When we say house security, most people think of spy cameras, nanny cams, and sensors. At places of business, it’s also common to install CCTV cameras for security.
However, in some states, buying and installing spy or hidden cameras aren’t all that simple. In general, using hidden cameras are legal in the United States. However, you might not know it but video surveillance laws by state differ.
These laws apply not only to the home but also in offices or other workplaces. There are limits on placing hidden cameras that cover public places too. Not to mention spy cameras with audio recording have stricter laws.
Before you go shopping for a security system that best fits your home or business, read on. Find out first if it’s allowed in your state. You might face some legal troubles otherwise.
1. Common Questions on Spy Cameras and Their Legality
Before we go on with the lists on video surveillance laws by state, let’s start with some general inquiries.
What Are the Forms of Surveillance Tools?
We have audio surveillance and video surveillance, or a combination of both. Today, it’s more common to use video surveillance only, especially in CCTV systems. Be wary of using cameras that record audio or audio recorders, which we’ll tackle later.
A survey found that only 38% of American homeowners have a home security product. Not all use surveillance tools like nanny cams or home security cameras. A good share of that 38% only uses alarms and locks.
Is It Illegal to Video Record Someone Without Their Consent?
Video recording is illegal if you place the video recorder in an area that’s expected to be a private space. For example, don’t place secret video recorders in bathrooms, changing rooms, and bedrooms. The key is to avoid using spy cameras for malicious intentions.
Business owners are free to place hidden cameras in retail stores, restaurants, and other places of business. It’s legal to add a hidden camera in a place where the public has no reasonable expectation of privacy. Adding a camera that’s pointed at a public street right outside your front office doors won’t pose a problem.
If you’re planning to add a home video surveillance system, installing it isn’t illegal.
However, remember that the intention is to use it for your protection and privacy. Make sure your video cameras aren’t invading others’ privacy. You can’t have a security camera that’s pointed at a neighbor’s window, for example.
Is It Illegal to Record Someone?
Did you ever wonder why most video surveillance footage doesn’t have audio? While some cases allow it, you’ll find that laws on audio recordings are much stricter. Here, we’re referring to recording as a video recording with audio and audio recording only.
In all states, it’s illegal to record conversations without the participants’ consent. Most states allow at least one party’s consent. The following states need the consent of both parties:
- New Hampshire
Hawaii differs in that it somehow allows one-party and two-party consent. The state allows one-party consent if the conversation happens in public. If the conversation happens in private, the consent of both parties is necessary.
2. Video Surveillance Laws by State
The talk of using spy cameras can clash with some ethical and moral issues. It’s an understandable problem that most people can agree with. Employers that use spy cameras are especially vulnerable to finding themselves in gray areas.
To help you find out if you’re overstepping boundaries on privacy as your state dictates, we’ve listed them down. The states that allow hidden cameras despite a subject’s consent outnumber those that don’t. For this list, we’ll focus on the minority.
Hidden cameras without consent are illegal in states such as:
- New Hampshire
The District of Columbia and all other states allow the use of hidden cameras. This includes recording someone with the one-party consent or without the subject’s knowledge.
As a general rule, installing spy cameras is legal in all states. If one uses it to invade someone’s right to privacy or with malicious intentions, it then becomes illegal.
3. Hidden Cameras and Employees’ Written Consent: States That Allow Them
There aren’t any firm sets of laws on the use of hidden cameras in the workplace yet. As you might gather, the issue behind spy cameras is consent, or lack thereof, by the subject. Most of the time, businesses use it to prevent security issues or internal theft.
The latter is why some business owners don’t inform employees about hidden cameras. Most employers notify their employees of the hidden cams in the workplace. Meanwhile, other employers don’t see it as necessary.
In some states, the employer must get the written consent of the employee to have a hidden camera on them. The following is a list of these states:
- New Hampshire
- South Dakota
In states like Michigan, it’s considered an offense to use secret video recorders without authorization. In all other states, it’s safe to say that an employer has no legal duty to inform their employees of any spy cameras monitoring them.
4. Surveillance on Union Activity
Even when you work in a state that allows video surveillance in the workplace, you still have limits. Larger companies almost always have union workers. If your employees are part of a union, it’s illegal to record their union meetings and other activities.
In some circumstances, an employer needs to use video surveillance of union meetings. Before he does so, he should bargain with the union employees first. Also, an employer may not use hidden cameras to intimidate current or potential union members.
Use Spy Cameras for Their Intended Purpose
Using surveillance tools to protect your home or business is understandable. However, the laws of your state on these tools are also worth noting. If you’re still unsure, check with an attorney from the locality.
That’s it for our guide on the video surveillance laws by state. Now that you’re more informed about these laws, keep your momentum up and learn more now. Check out our other helpful guides on installing and using spy cameras.