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Legal: Surveillance Cameras Inside the Home

Home technology integrator wants to know: What are the laws on installing secret nanny-cams in a customer’s home? Security and home-automation attorney Ken Kirschenbaum responds.

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Much has been written about the legality of surveillance cameras in public spaces. In general, you can’t put them in places where there is an expectation of privacy.

But what about inside a private home? Is it legal to monitor people inside your own home without their knowing? Furthermore, could a home technology integrator be liable for installing covert cameras for customers who may use them illegally?

Ken Kirschenbaum, a leading attorney in the security and home automation field, and a contributer to CE Pro's sister publication Security Sales & Integration, responds to readers in his free email newsletter (edited slightly for grammar and context).

Question:

What are the laws on installing secret nanny-cams in one of our customer's homes? She wants to put them in public areas (living room, kitchen, etc.) which from what we understand is okay as long as there is no audio. The part we are unsure about is that she also wants one installed in the child's bedroom. We have not been able to find any reliable information on this matter. 

Kirschenbaum Reply:

You can get a head start researching audio video laws on our Website.

Audio and video is permitted in the home as long as the data is not misused. A parent can consent to audio and video on behalf of a child, but again be mindful of misuse of the data.

But it's not likely that the installer would face civil or criminal charges for installations requested by a home owner.

Obviously I am talking about a single-family dwelling occupied by the owner. Landlords spying on tenants is not permitted and you shouldn't install if you know that is the intended use.


More from Security & Home Automation Legal Expert Ken Kirschenbaum


Question:

I have a client who hires 24-hour care for her mother in her own home. She is in bed almost all the time. There have been problems with things missing and questions regarding quality of care. The client wants me to install a covert camera in the bedroom, which will only be seen by the client with a password to login to the DVR to check on her mom. She will have sole access and mom will be undressed at times.

I’m wondering if there is a letter I can have her sign stating that the purpose of the COVERT camera is solely for monitoring the care of her mother, with a clause releasing and indemnifying me from all liability or any claim of any sort against my company, resulting from the installation of this camera.

Kirschenbaum Reply:

A homeowner can have cameras installed in his or her own home anywhere they want, though the misuse of cameras will have potentially civil and criminal consequences. 

A parent who installs cameras in the kids’ bedroom, bathroom, or anywhere else for that matter, records the child without clothes and peddles it on the Internet is subject to getting arrested for child pornography.

That same camera capturing a babysitter abusing the child, turned over to the police, is going to be accepted into evidence when the babysitter goes to trial for criminal charges. 
You have an adult asking to install cameras in an invalid mother's bedroom in order to monitor the caretakers. You can do it and you don't need anything more than the protection afforded in the Residential All in One [contract offered by Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum].  

You are right to be careful. You might have been asked to install cameras in the caretaker's bedroom or bathroom. That should set off a red flag in your mind. There is a lot of room for misuse of the data those cameras are likely to record, and the caretaker did give permission. This is especially the case with covert cameras, but my answer is the same for obvious cameras.