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This information was found on the internet and was not written or published by or Audio Deterrent Systems. It is provided as a guideline and a source of general information. Anyone purchasing a surveillance camera or any device that records conversations should consult with an attorney on the legality of using such a device.


All About Hidden Camera Laws


Laws governing Electronic surveillance is a relatively new area and vary from state to state. The definition of a surveillance camera involves issues as to whether it is visible to the public or a “hidden camera”. Not every camera “looks” like a camera you might see on the wall inside a bank. Many cameras are blacked out domes and although they are clearly visible they can not be immediately identified as surveillance cameras by many of the public.

A private place is defined as a location where a person expects to be safe from unauthorized surveillance.

Most video recordings in the United States are legal with or without consent; however, several laws do exist regarding "Invasion of Privacy," which deals with the concept of expected privacy. This idea of “expected privacy” includes areas such as bathrooms, locker rooms, changing and dressing rooms, bedrooms, and other areas where a person may expect a certain level of personal privacy.

Most of the laws dealing with video recording privacy issues tend to allow recording and monitoring of video activity under most circumstances without notification of any of the parties involved, it is recommended that prior to use of a Hidden Camera, you consult with your local law enforcement or an attorney who is knowledgeable in the area. This insures that despite a general understanding of the law, you are in fact complying with all local and federal regulations prior to utilization of video surveillance or monitoring.

In the area of recording conversations it is generally illegal to record a person’s private conversation without their permission. There are however exceptions to this law. Conversations that are not private or can be easily overheard by other people, i.e. in a public place a city hall meeting or a store. Although video cameras and monitoring of e-mails is legal in the work place it is illegal to record employees conversations. This law extends to contractors or other hired people i.e., “nannies” or baby sitters that enter your own home. Recording or listening to direct family members in your own home is generally legal but enters a gray area with extended family members, i.e., in-laws, cousins or even step children. It is always advisable to consult an attorney before recording conversations.

Recording phone conversations for many companies is common place. Today many insurance companies announce on phone recordings that “this conversations is being recorded” This may be part of their record concerning the details of an accident that can be referenced later should there be a disagreement of the details. Likewise obtaining written permission from employees that all activities including conversations in the work place are being both video and audio recorded is an option any employer could pursue. It is unlikely however that anyone would submit to working in such an environment where their private conversations are being recorded. A more precise example might be when an employee is asked to attend a disciplinary meeting or any other meeting where recording both video and audio is beneficial to protecting the rights of both parties.

The laws in thirteen states expressly prohibit the unauthorized installation or use of cameras in "private" places. These states include: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, South Dakota, and Utah. In these states, the installation or use of any device for photographing, observing or eavesdropping actions or audio in a "private" place without permission of those being observed or listened to is a crime punishable by law. Some states also prohibit trespassing on private property to conduct unauthorized surveillance of people there. These states include: Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Utah. In most of these states, the unauthorized installation or use of Hidden Cameras (those that are seen as violating ones 4th Amendment rights to privacy) is a felony offense.

Violating such laws is punishable by a $2,000.00 fine and a sentence of up to 2 years in prison.

Hidden Cameras in the Workplace

The idea of Hidden Cameras in the workplace is a relatively new one. Companies that are concerned with the on-the-job activities of their employees should consult an attorney familiar with privacy laws before installing Hidden Cameras; however, without such legal permission to install the cameras, any findings from the surveillance tapes would be useless in enforcing disciplinary measures as stern as dismissal.

In a recent example, In July of 2005, a 2-1 panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld a finding that the Anheuser-Busch committed an unfair labor practice when it installed hidden cameras in 1998 before bargaining with the union, as required under federal labor laws. The brewer had fired five workers in 1998 after Hidden Cameras showed the employees smoking marijuana in an area where workers sometimes take breaks at one of its St. Louis facilities. The example of the Anheuser-Busch case is relevant because that it touches upon all relevant issues surrounding not only privacy, but also privacy and surveillance in the workplace.

Anheuser-Busch argued that the cameras were a matter of internal security and that employees should not be awarded the expectation of privacy in the elevator, in motors room or the rooftop, which were not official break areas.

The NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) has allowed Hidden Cameras in the workplace for a long period of time, only demanding that the company bargains with the union prior to installation. However, the company does not have to say where the cameras are placed, thus allowing most or all of them to be hidden.

Despite the protection from Hidden Cameras that labor members may get, small-office employees and other non-union workers have very little they can say in opposition to such issues. Due to the absence of legal precedent in this area, small business owners and mid-level managers of large companies are able to get away with just about anything they want. While there is a common law of privacy in every state, such laws are very rarely used in surveillance cases, especially those pertaining to an employee’s conduct while on the job. The way the law stands that this very moment, an employer can for the most part put a Hidden Camera anywhere (including the restroom), and there's little, if anything, that anyone can do about it.


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