Is It Legal for Security Cameras to Record Audio?

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Security cameras that include audio come with a variety of benefits. If you have a camera that detects sound, it could alert you if it hears an intruder or vandal in or around your home. It’s also useful for listening to what’s going on in your home when you’re not around, whether you have children, pets, or guests.

Most smart security cameras these days automatically come with audio recognition. For example, the Brinks Home™ Indoor Camera w/ Two-Way Voice and Smart Video Doorbell use two-way audio. Two-way audio means a built-in microphone and speaker allow you to communicate through the video camera with the person who is monitoring it. One-way audio, by contrast, only captures sound from the side being monitored.

While these features are pretty standard nowadays, you may wonder if your security cameras record and store audio when they record and store video footage—and whether it’s legal to do so. If you’re concerned about your and others’ privacy, here are some important things to know.

Audio Surveillance Laws Depend on the State

The federal Wiretap Act prohibits anyone from secretly recording conversations that another person believes is private. However, the act does not apply if at least one person in the conversation consents to being recorded—even if it’s the person doing the recording.

For the most part, the legality of recording audio varies by state. Most states have specific regulations that govern the use of electronic recordings of conversations.

Consent Is Key

As of 2022, there are 11 states who require two-party consent when it comes to recording. The rest only require one-party consent.

One-party consent basically means if you’re part of a conversation, you’re allowed to record it, whether or not the other person knows or consents. For the law to apply, you usually have to be present for the conversation as it’s being recorded. If not, the other person must be the one to consent to being recorded.

Two-party consent means everyone involved must know the conversation is being recorded before it takes place. The following states require two-party consent:

  • California

  • Delaware

  • Florida

  • Illinois

  • Maryland

  • Massachusetts

  • Montana

  • Nevada

  • New Hampshire

  • Pennsylvania

  • Washington

No matter where you are, it’s recommended you look into your local, county, state, and federal surveillance laws before installing security cameras in your home or business.

Public vs. Private Surveillance

When in a public place, there is a chance your conversations could be recorded. When it comes to businesses, whether a clothing store, restaurant, or gas station, the law usually requires owners to put up a sign saying that video or audio surveillance is taking place. Therefore, when you enter that business, you are consenting to being recorded.

There’s always a chance that someone could use their smartphone to record a conversation you’re having with a friend at the park without you knowing. The general rule is that public places don’t provide a reasonable expectation of privacy. However, covert recording in a public place using hidden surveillance cameras is typically prohibited.

When it comes to your home, you may want to keep a security camera hidden so that potential burglars don’t know they’re being watched. But in private areas, like bedrooms, bathrooms, or dressing rooms, recording of any kind without the person’s knowledge is illegal and violates eavesdropping laws.

It’s also important to know that the internet, while massive and at times uncontrollable, is not above the law. If your security cameras are connected to the internet via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or another source, the eavesdropping and wiretapping laws still apply.

If you have questions about your state's privacy laws, Brinks Home is here to help. Call us today to speak with a Security Consultant and build the home security system you have been looking for.

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