Are Home Security Cameras an Invasion of Privacy?

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The first closed-circuit television system (CCTV) using a video camera was developed in the 1920s. One hundred years later, security cameras are commonplace in public and have increased in popularity in residential homes.

As technology advances and more homeowners consider products like video doorbells and outdoor cameras, many may wonder “Are home security cameras an invasion of privacy?”

Let’s examine the usage of residential security cameras and the legal considerations in terms of privacy and consent.

Home Security Cameras and Privacy Concerns

An integral part of a comprehensive home security system, security cameras are designed to protect a property and its inhabitants. These devices are installed for observing and monitoring outdoor and/or indoor activity, from watching the front door for deliveries and visitors to keeping an eye on pets while away. Smart home cameras often have features like two-way audio communication or real-time streaming with remote viewing capabilities.

Globally, the number of households with smart security cameras is forecasted to reach 146 million by 2025. As security cameras are becoming more commonplace, many are voicing concerns around the appropriate use of them.

Some of the commonly asked questions about security cameras and privacy involve spying or improper usage of devices, needing permission or consent to record, and protecting personal data.

Privacy Laws and Home Security Cameras

In the United States, there are two types of laws that impact the usage and legality of security cameras: privacy laws and consent laws. However, laws in jurisdictions may vary, and it is important to consider specific laws and regulations at the federal, state, county or parish, and local or municipal levels.

Generally, installing and using security cameras is acceptable at a national level, assuming there is no expectation of privacy. US citizens have the right to a reasonable expectation of privacy, which extends to video recording. This means recording or filming in private places—such as bathrooms, bedrooms, or areas where people may be showering and changing—is typically not allowed.

Consent laws also dictate whether it is legal to record someone without their permission.

At the federal level, it is legal to record a conversation (either in-person or over the phone) when there is at least one person’s consent given. A caveat is that this one-party consent law doesn’t apply to video surveillance.

Video and audio recordings are interpreted slightly differently by law, with some states having stricter regulations than what is permitted by the federal government. For example, in California, using devices for eavesdropping or recording private communications is prohibited.

As laws vary widely across states and municipalities, those interested in home security cameras should familiarize themselves with specific regulations in their area’s jurisdiction. Homeowners may also consult an attorney to ensure camera usage complies with applicable local laws.

Do Home Security Cameras Invade Privacy?

We’ve touched on privacy and consent laws concerning home security cameras. Now, let’s answer the question as to whether these popular devices are considered an invasion of privacy.

Used properly, home security cameras should not invade anyone’s privacy. When deciding to install and run these devices, homeowners have a responsibility to do so safely—while also taking steps to protect their privacy at home.

A key consideration for appropriate usage of security cameras is placement. Outdoor cameras, including video doorbells, can be reasonably stationed around your property as long as they are not clearly capturing footage looking inside a neighbor’s home or property. Recordings in outside areas that may show neighboring lawns are considered public places and not a violation of privacy. A rule of thumb for outdoor security cameras is to avoid positioning them where they could potentially record sensitive footage.

Regarding consent, it is best practice for homeowners to inform residents and guests of where indoor cameras are placed and when they are on. Using smart home-integrated apps, like the Brinks Home™ Mobile App, allows you to enable and disable cameras, so they may only be on when no one is home, or to keep an eye on pets.

Typically, private residences are not required to post a sign alerting that recording may be happening. However, some local jurisdictions may require notice if security cameras are installed. To err on the side of caution in respecting privacy, homeowners may consider positioning cameras to only monitor entrances and exits and use the devices in good faith, or for the right reasons.

Additional Ways to Protect Your Privacy

Outside of using security cameras responsibly, homeowners should be mindful of protecting their own privacy.

It starts with choosing a trustworthy company for your security needs. Brinks Home’s professionally monitored security systems use encrypted technology to protect customers' private information. Communication between its devices is also encrypted, safeguarding its systems against potential hackers.

Best safety practices include choosing strong, unique passwords for your devices and accounts connected to your security cameras. Two-factor authentication strengthens your protection, delivering a follow-up notification and code via text or email. Additionally, homeowners should ensure their devices and systems are up to date with the latest firmware.

Balancing Security and Privacy

Home security cameras are designed to keep people safe, not make them feel uneasy. There’s a balance between respecting privacy and taking safety precautions, and homeowners have a responsibility to be aware of any local laws and abide by privacy and consent laws in using security cameras.

Brinks Home Security Consultants can help you find the right security cameras for your home, with proper, professional installation by knowledgeable technicians. Contact us today.

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