One of the most common questions people ask us is when and where it’s legal to place hidden cameras.
Whether you are implementing your own security system, or if you work in an office where your company has a ton of security cameras installed, you may be wondering the same thing.
The laws regarding hidden surveillance are fairly similar across the United States. Are you allowed to install hidden cameras anywhere on your property, or do you have to notify people that they are being recorded?
The laws regarding hidden surveillance vary depending upon your location, but they are fairly similar across the United States.
Below is a general breakdown of when it is okay to use hidden recording equipment and when you could be breaking the law.
As mentioned, the laws do differ from state to state, so research your state’s laws before you place any hidden cameras.
Placing your own recording devices in your home
Not too long ago, “nanny cams” made a huge splash among parents and anyone else who wanted to monitor their homes while they were away. These were cameras that were often hidden in teddy bears that were designed to let parents keep an eye on their babysitters.
In most states, these types of hidden cameras are legal to use in your home, even if you do not have the consent of the person being recorded.
It is generally not legal, as you likely would guess, to place a hidden camera into someone else’s home – even if your kid is being cared for there.
A reasonable expectation of privacy
When it comes to any hidden camera law, you are going to see the concept of reasonable expectation of privacy come up time and again. So if you’re placing a hidden camera in your home, or anywhere else, the people you are recording are generally to be given this level of privacy.
Hidden cameras are typically not legal to place in bathrooms or bedrooms where someone is staying, or any other place were people would assume that they would have a heightened level of privacy.
If cameras are used in these types of areas, such as when security cameras are placed in dressing rooms, the surveyors have an obligation to post notices alerting those being recorded to this fact.
Using hidden cameras in public places
In many states, you can use hidden cameras in public places. People who are out in public spaces are already giving up their privacy by virtue of where they are.
When people enter public restrooms, locker rooms, or other similar spaces, most states do honor the reasonable right to privacy. If cameras are present in these areas, they generally cannot be hidden.
Employers using hidden recording equipment
The same rules for homes and public places apply in most areas of workplaces, as well.
While employers typically do have the right to place hidden cameras throughout the workplace, they nearly always choose to make the cameras highly visible to encourage employees to be on their best behavior.
What to do if you think you’re being watchedprivate investigator to have both hidden cameras and audio bugs found and removed from your property.
Please note: The vast majority of private investigators are not actually qualified to perform bug sweeps. Many who have training from the law enforcement community do not have the funds to purchase the cutting edge detection equipment needed. The detection devices we use typically need to be updated every 5 years or so to keep in line with changes in hidden device technology – and this renewal of equipment often has a price tag in the tens of thousands of dollars.
There are private investigators in our industry who buy a “magic wand” online and pretend they are sweeping your home or business. That’s just a ruse.
At Martin Investigative Services, we routinely perform bug sweeps and do physical and electronic scans of properties to uncover hidden recording devices and cameras, and we even offer a full 100% money-back guarantee on these services.
You can see some pictures of some of actual hidden devices we’ve found over the years right here.
Especially in the corporate world, secret surveying equipment is more common than you might imagine. From 1969 to 1988 the “find rate” in homes and businesses was about 4%. Since then the rate has risen dramatically and has held at a consistent 16% for the past few years.
This article was originally posted on May 13, 2014.