In an increasingly surveillance-based society, it may seem that cameras are everywhere around us. If you look around, you may find cameras in unexpected places that you pass on a daily basis. But, how far can all of this surveillance go? Are there places that cameras are not allowed? Where is it legal to put surveillance cameras?
Generally, cameras outside are almost always fair game. That is why many buildings, particularly in very urban areas, have a number of security cameras at every corner of the structure. That way, if anything occurs on the property – be it a break in or a slip and fall accident – there is a visual record of the event.
For the most part, we do not have a right to privacy while in public places. Outside on the street is generally considered a public place, so there is no issue about invading someone’s privacy here under normal circumstances.
However, if a camera points somewhere private (e.g., into someone’s bedroom window) then there may be a privacy concern. While the camera is situated outside, it cannot generally be oriented in a manner intended to invade an area where someone has a reasonable expectation of privacy. That is especially true if the camera has enhanced capabilities that allow it to see through obstructions or in the dark. One can also not generally use a hand held or portable camera outside to do things like look up women’s skirts, peer through windows, or otherwise go from a public area into an area where one would expect privacy.
When cameras move inside, things get a little more complicated. Again, cameras are only allowed in areas where one does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Thus, store security cameras used to prevent shoplifting are generally okay. But, what happens when the camera is situated someplace where one expects privacy but that is also an ideal location for one to conceal store merchandise?
This has been a serious issue of concern for stores that have considered putting cameras in bathrooms and dressing rooms. Surprisingly, cases have split over privacy in dressing rooms, while bathrooms have almost universally been deemed off limits. Dressing rooms, however, do not necessarily require full nudity. Thus, one could be on camera and not realize it everytime they go clothes shopping. Fortunately, most national chains have refrained from placing cameras in dressing rooms out of concern for alienating their customers rather than issues over privacy laws.
Similarly, other areas like rented rooms, hotel rooms, and locker rooms are generally off limits for security cameras. Again, the expectation in these places are for complete privacy, and one should feel comfortable undressing in these locations without having to worry about someone watching or broadcasting the footage.
Surprising New Surveillance
With technology ever evolving, new locations for surveillance are popping up almost everyday. Aerial drones are one new area of surveillance drawing considerable debate. While laws have not yet fully caught up to this development, it does raise the question whether one’s house and yard can be free of surveillance, either by individuals or the government, from aerial drones.
Dash and vest cameras on police officers are also common new locations for surveillance equipment. These have developed to address complaints about police misconduct, but are also useful in evidence against those accused of a crime. It also means that there are thousands of mobile government cameras on the streets every day and night, causing many to have concerns about the bounds of privacy versus police activity.
Questions About Surveillance Cameras and Privacy Issues?
If you are a property owner and want to know where you can place surveillance cameras, of if you believe someone has invaded your privacy through the use of an improperly located camera, you should contact us at (561)838-9595. You may also need to discuss your concerns with us and potentially file criminal charges. We can advise you as to whether this is an available course of action.
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