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What Does the Law Say About Owning a Home Spy Camera?

What Does the Law Say About Owning a Home Spy Camera?

4th Oct 2020

Have you been wondering what goes on in your home when you’re not there? Whether you’re worried about your child’s safety when in the care of a nanny or you’re curious about what your dog does all day, there are plenty of reasons to use a home spy camera.

However, before you install a spy camera in your home, it’s a good idea to make sure you’ve explored any potential legal issues surrounding the use of a concealed camera. Don’t worry. It’s not as complicated as you might think. Here’s what you need to know.

Is a Home Spy Camera Legal?

First, we’ll tackle the question that’s at the forefront of everyone’s minds: “Is it legal to use a spy camera at home?” This answer is (mostly) yes.

In general, in the United States, it’s legal to use a spy camera system (or any other type of camera) in your home without the consent of the person you’re recording. However, it’s important to note that the rules may vary in different states. For this reason, it’s a good idea to research your state’s laws before you install your system.

If you’re really concerned, you might even consider speaking with a lawyer about how you plan to use your system, just to confirm that you won’t run into any trouble.

Audio vs. Video Recording

One of the most important things you need to understand is that, in the eyes of the law, there’s a difference between audio and video recording. Federal laws and many state statutes prohibit recording conversations without the other person’s consent. That includes hidden video cameras that also record audio.

Many states follow a rule known as “one-party consent,” meaning that as long as one party to the conversation knows the recording is happening, it’s legal. Other states, including Florida, California, Connecticut, Maryland, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Montana, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Washington, require two-party consent. If you’re interested in recording audio as part of your home-monitoring system, it’s a great idea to consult with an attorney first.

Expectation of Privacy

Another important rule you’ll want to know when determining where to place your spy camera is the “reasonable expectation of privacy.” Basically, this says that you can’t record someone where they can reasonably expect that they’re not being watched.

That almost always includes bathrooms and, for other people living in your home, may also extend to their bedrooms. While not all states expressly prohibit placing cameras in these areas, you should never assume it’s legal (or morally acceptable, for that matter) to put a hidden camera in private areas of your home.

Malicious Intent

Another important point to note is that it’s illegal everywhere in the United States to record someone (whether via video or audio) if you have “malicious intent.” For example, you cannot install a hidden camera to blackmail someone.

If you’re engaging in criminal activity, then you’ll run into trouble, even if you’re following all the proper guidelines for spy camera placement.

Recording Outside Your Home

You might also wonder whether you’ll run into any issues with placing spy cameras outside your home. The answer to this depends on the circumstances.

If you’re planning to use the cameras to monitor activity on your property – for example, your front porch, driveway, or back yard, then you shouldn’t have any problems. The rules above still apply, though, so make sure you’re following them no matter where you place your cameras.

You will also need to ensure that your outdoor cameras don’t inadvertently record a private place (for example, your neighbor’s bedroom window). It is particularly true if the camera is one that is capable of clearly recording images in the dark or through obstructions.

Now, when you go into someone else’s home, that’s a different story. If, for example, your child goes to a friend’s home to spend the night, you may not pack a spy cam!

You also may not place a spy cam in your babysitter’s home or your child’s daycare so that you can keep an eye on what your child does there. Spying on people in another person’s home is always illegal, even if you intend to ensure the safety of your child.

Spy Cameras in an Airbnb

What if you occasionally rent your home out as an Airbnb? Is it still legal to use your spy cameras? The answer to this question is a bit more tricky.

When you host Airbnb guests or other people in your home, you must respect their “reasonable expectation of privacy.” That means that cameras must stay out of bathrooms and bedrooms – including your guest bedrooms!

If you feel like you want to keep cameras in the common areas (ex. the living room and kitchen), you’ll still want to notify the guests that they’re being recorded. That might include posting a sign in the home and/or adding a clause to the rental agreement.

Protect Your Home with Video Surveillance

Adding a home spy camera to your home can make things safer and give you extra peace of mind. Now that you understand all of the legalities, you’re ready to install your new system.

There are many different options for home video surveillance, so you can choose the method that makes you the most comfortable. Get started by browsing our inventory of spy cameras today!

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