Are Security Cameras Allowed to Record Audio? Three Interesting Facts

BY KRISTA BRUTON 

August 19, 2020

1 4 are-security-camera-allowed-to-record-audio Desktop (1)

Cameras seem to be everywhere in today’s world, and no one can get away from them. Sometimes, it is legal and other times it is not. Depending on your location, certain kinds of recordings may be illegal.  For example, did you know that recording audio of an employee without their knowledge is illegal? To be fair, it is only natural for an employer to want to record around their office building for security purposes. But when does the need for security go too far into invasion of privacy?  Brinks Home Security™ wants to make sure you know the laws around setting up a security camera. Here are three interesting facts about security cameras and the legality of recording: 

  • It is not legal to record sound on surveillance 

  • Audio surveillance might not be legal depending on the state 

  • Wi-Fi recording could turn a person into a cybercriminal 

It is Not Legal to Record Sound on Surveillance 

There is a reason why most surveillance cameras lack audio. This is because it is illegal to record oral conversations. All thanks to the federal wiretap law. To sum up the law, it is a federal crime to record a conversation between two employees in places like a break room or the bathroom. The only way that recording sound is legal is if one or more parties give their consent. Punishments can range from paying a fine of  $250,000 or up to $500,000 for organizations or can lead to five years in prison.  

Audio Surveillance Might Not be Legal Depending on the State 

When it comes to audio surveillance, this is not  a one-size-fits-all topic. Each state has a different set of laws when it comes to audio surveillance. Most states have specific regulations that govern the use of electronic recordings of conversations. According to Upcounsel,

“While an audio recording could be useful in an investigation or courtroom, most kinds of audio recordings are illegal. Using an audio recording device to record telephone and phone conversations, or conversations in a room or car, is illegal. United States Code, Title 18, Section 2510 says that verbal communication between two people believing that their conversation is not being intercepted is justifiable reason to assume it is not being recorded. In plain words, it means that audio recording is not legal unless both parties know it is taking place.” 

Upcounsel also states: 

“Businesses can avoid legal problems if the employer informs the employees that recording is taking place when hiring, and by using a contract that is signed by the employee. Most states do not permit the use of covert audio in: 

  • Public areas 

  • Public workplaces 

  • Public stores 

By posting signs, recording can be legal, if the signs state that both video and audio recording is taking place.” 

In other words, it is best to look up the laws in your state before setting up cameras. 

Wi-Fi Recording Could Turn a Person Into a Cybercriminal 

What if the camera is attached to Wi-Fi? The internet is not above the law. Privacy laws can apply to using Wi-Fi to record surveillance. However, there is a very thin line to walk here. There are two things to keep in mind before hitting record. One, nobody is allowed to record video in a location where people expect there to be a high level of privacy. So, no cameras are allowed in the bathroom or bedroom. And the second is recording audio with the footage due to wiretapping laws. 

Krista Bruton is a DFW-based writer who covers smart home security and consumer protection.

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Are Security Cameras Allowed to Record Audio? Three Interesting Facts

BY KRISTA BRUTON 

August 19, 2020

Cameras seem to be everywhere in today’s world, and no one can get away from them. Sometimes, it is legal and other times it is not. Depending on your location, certain kinds of recordings may be illegal.  For example, did you know that recording audio of an employee without their knowledge is illegal? To be fair, it is only natural for an employer to want to record around their office building for security purposes. But when does the need for security go too far into invasion of privacy?  Brinks Home Security™ wants to make sure you know the laws around setting up a security camera. Here are three interesting facts about security cameras and the legality of recording: 

  • It is not legal to record sound on surveillance 

  • Audio surveillance might not be legal depending on the state 

  • Wi-Fi recording could turn a person into a cybercriminal 

It is Not Legal to Record Sound on Surveillance 

There is a reason why most surveillance cameras lack audio. This is because it is illegal to record oral conversations. All thanks to the federal wiretap law. To sum up the law, it is a federal crime to record a conversation between two employees in places like a break room or the bathroom. The only way that recording sound is legal is if one or more parties give their consent. Punishments can range from paying a fine of  $250,000 or up to $500,000 for organizations or can lead to five years in prison.  

Audio Surveillance Might Not be Legal Depending on the State 

When it comes to audio surveillance, this is not  a one-size-fits-all topic. Each state has a different set of laws when it comes to audio surveillance. Most states have specific regulations that govern the use of electronic recordings of conversations. According to Upcounsel,

“While an audio recording could be useful in an investigation or courtroom, most kinds of audio recordings are illegal. Using an audio recording device to record telephone and phone conversations, or conversations in a room or car, is illegal. United States Code, Title 18, Section 2510 says that verbal communication between two people believing that their conversation is not being intercepted is justifiable reason to assume it is not being recorded. In plain words, it means that audio recording is not legal unless both parties know it is taking place.” 

Upcounsel also states: 

“Businesses can avoid legal problems if the employer informs the employees that recording is taking place when hiring, and by using a contract that is signed by the employee. Most states do not permit the use of covert audio in: 

  • Public areas 

  • Public workplaces 

  • Public stores 

By posting signs, recording can be legal, if the signs state that both video and audio recording is taking place.” 

In other words, it is best to look up the laws in your state before setting up cameras. 

Wi-Fi Recording Could Turn a Person Into a Cybercriminal 

What if the camera is attached to Wi-Fi? The internet is not above the law. Privacy laws can apply to using Wi-Fi to record surveillance. However, there is a very thin line to walk here. There are two things to keep in mind before hitting record. One, nobody is allowed to record video in a location where people expect there to be a high level of privacy. So, no cameras are allowed in the bathroom or bedroom. And the second is recording audio with the footage due to wiretapping laws. 

Krista Bruton is a DFW-based writer who covers smart home security and consumer protection.

Share via:

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