As the most popular security solution among homeowners, home security cameras are not considered an invasion of privacy when used appropriately.
However, like most places in the world, US citizens are entitled to privacy, meaning various rules apply to the use of video and audio recordings on properties, business premises, and public spaces.
Are home security cameras an invasion of privacy? Read on to find out, as well as what the US consent rules are in each state.
Are Security Cameras an Invasion of Privacy?
Home security cameras breach privacy if they:
- Clearly see into a neighbor’s home (not just the front lawn or part of the backyard)
- Are hidden inside the home or placed without consent
- Are placed in a “private” area indoors, like a bathroom or bedroom
- Are placed inside the home without the consent of the people living there
- Are placed inside a hotel room or Airbnb without informing the guest
What are Privacy Laws on Home Security Cameras?
As a general rule, the following is considered a breach of privacy in most states:
- Recording inside a property in “private” places (like a bathroom or bedroom)
- Recording in public areas/rooms that are considered private (like in a changing room or hotel room)
- Using hidden cameras or cameras not in plain sight (depending on the state)
- Recording the audio of more than one person when no one involved in the conversation has given their consent
Privacy Laws vs Consent Laws Per State
There are two main elements to consider when assessing if a security camera is in breach of privacy: privacy laws and consent laws. These differ per state.
Privacy laws outline the degree of privacy that American citizens are entitled to, whereas consent laws are rules around when consent is required to prevent a breach of privacy.
In most US states, it’s legal to record audio so long as one person in the conversation is aware (which can be the person recording). This is referred to as ‘one-party consent’.
A minority of states call for everyone in the conversation to give consent to being recorded, which is referred to as ‘two-party consent’. At the time of writing, 11 states follow the two-party consent rule for audio recordings:
- New Hampshire
The one-party consent rule also applies to video recording on your property. For example, if audio at your property is being recorded, the one-party consent rule usually applies, as you know the audio is being recorded.
Do I Need a Sign to Say Video Surveillance is in Operation?
In places where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy, you don’t need a sign stating video surveillance is in operation. It’s expected to be recorded when entering a store, for example, or the lobby of a movie theater.
Video recording in public places is allowed in all US states, and since most follow one-party consent rules, the presence of the worker or business owner makes audio and video recording legal.
Can Neighbors Complain About CCTV?
A neighbor can complain about CCTV on your property if their privacy is breached. Whether the complaint is valid depends on state law and circumstance.
The complaint is likely to be valid if the home security camera:
- Records their property instead of yours
- Records the interior of their property
- Records people on their property intentionally and/or unnecessarily
- Records audio on their property
The construction of the homes may be such that it is not a legal offense, particularly if the positioning is required to record your own property and visibility of the neighbor’s property is poor.
The best thing to do to prevent issues with neighbors regarding security cameras is to:
- Listen to your neighbors’ concerns and attempt to resolve the issue swiftly e.g., by repositioning the camera
- Check local privacy rules with your local state council
- Seek legal advice should the complaint be taken further by the neighbor
How Do I Block My Neighbors’ Security Camera?
If a neighbor’s home security camera is causing an issue, the first step should be to speak to the neighbor. Express your concerns, and consider asking to see a snapshot of the footage to put your mind at ease.
If the camera can clearly see into your home, ask if the camera can be moved. Taking legal action should only ever be the last resort.
Overall, home security cameras are not an invasion of privacy when used appropriately. That’s why it’s important to be aware of local state regulations, and to have some idea of the places that are and aren’t broadly considered ‘private’.
When using home security cameras in the US, it’s essential to ensure the cameras don’t breach someone’s reasonable expectation of privacy.