It’s considered covert surveillance when the cameras can’t be identified or can’t be seen. Security cameras are, for the most part, legal in the United States as long as it doesn’t intrude upon a person’s fourth amendment right to privacy. This article will go into the details of what is considered legal and what is not legal as far as surveillance goes so that all questions are answered.
On the Uses of Covert Surveillance
A saying that holds true in court is “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Studies have shown that when a jury is presented with surveillance footage, they are more likely to convict than if there is no video surveillance shown as evidence.
The calculated placement of hidden surveillance cameras help with the detection and prosecution of theft, vandalism, elder neglect, child abuse, harassment and stalking.
Some of the most common places that use camera surveillance are retail stores, hospitals, prisons, construction sites, nursing homes, police stations, casinos and of course in the family home.
Watching the activities of household help and babysitters or nannies with covert surveillance cameras is on the rise. With newer technology, cameras can now be installed in such places as house plants, teddy bears, wall paintings and clocks.
What Exactly is Illegal?
In the US, most camera surveillance is considered legal.
What you cannot do legally is post cameras where people have an expectation of privacy.
- bathroom stalls
- dressing rooms
- locker rooms
- changing rooms
- someone else’s house
When is Audio Illegal?
- Most all situations involving an unattended recording device.
- Conversations you are not a part of.
Covert surveillance may also be illegal when you have audio surveillance taking place without the permission of those monitored when the person under surveillance has a practical expectancy of privacy.
Another case where video surveillance may be against the law is when the surveillance shows an illegal activity and the person under surveillance has a right to legal counsel, such as when being questioned by the law and the person in charge of the premises have not consented to video surveillance.
Audio recording for the most part is only legal if you are recording and are an engaged member of a conversation. Engaged doesn’t just mean you are there, it means you are actually participating.
Is It Okay to Use Video Surveillance?
Studies have shown that in the US and the UK video surveillance does act as a great deterrent to stopping crimes before they occur. Studies also show that video surveillance can be a very powerful tool in detection and prosecution of crimes.
The main thing to keep in mind is to know your local laws and to not just record anyone and everyone without their consent. If you follow all rules for covert surveillance, you should be okay under the law. Catching criminals is a great idea, just be sure you are not taking audio of people unknowingly.