Do You Need to Tell People You Collect Security Camera Footage?

Do You Need to Tell People You Collect Security Camera Footage?

Privacy Security Camera Footage: Do You Need to Put Up Signs to Use Your Security Cameras?

Do You Need to Tell People You Collect Security Camera Footage?

You want a comprehensive security camera system. But do you have the signage to match your security camera footage? Here's what you need to know about privacy.

Keyword(s): security camera footage


Do you ever get the feeling you’re being watched?

Well, the chances are pretty high that you are. There are billions of hours of security camera footage out there; on average there are around 106 Million new CCTV cameras bought every year. But if you’re a homeowner or a business owner when do you have to tell people they’re under surveillance?

Privacy vs Protection 

For lots of people, CCTV provides a welcome deterrent for would-be burglarers, knife attackers and even imposters trying to use your bank card at a cash point.

CCTV also solves crimes. CCTV has helped identify the perpetrators of both the 2005 London Bombings and the 2013 Boston Bombings.

And the speed at which the suspects were identified between those two cases has improved rapidly even though the sheer volume of CCTV has increased: from weeks to just three days.

But in the age of Edward Snowden, mass surveillance and allegations of a so-called ‘deep state’, many people feel that George Orwell’s 1984 is finally coming true. How do you strike the right balance? And what responsibility do you have to tell potential customers or passers-by they should smile because they’re on film?

The Law on Security Camera Footage

It might surprise you to know that surveillance camera laws are not actually that clear. 

The famous 1967 case Katz Vs United States ruled that private U.S citizens have the right to privacy from government surveillance ‘only where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy’ and that applies to CCTV cameras as well.

If you’re on public transport there’s an expectation you’re going to be watched, if you’re in a toilet cubicle you expect privacy so you would not expect to find a camera there.

This might also sound like a good rule of thumb for those of you thinking about buying a CCTV camera.

E.g If someone is on a public road outside a house or a shop they can expect to be watched but whether they’ve climbed the fence or you’ve opened the gate to let them into your front yard they’re on private property and have an expectation of privacy unless you tell them otherwise. 

Actually, it's not that simple. If you Google ’Do I have to post a sign for video surveillance?’ you will probably find a lot of contradictory advice. 

This could be because every state has different laws. 

  • New York has relatively lax laws which allow people to be filmed without their consent unless they are in a place where it is expected they will be naked, like a toilet or a changing room. Because of a very specific case in 2003, the law now makes it clear that whilst it is legal to film someone without their permission, using that footage for sinister purposes can land you in jail.

This is a good deterrent against so-called ’upskirting’ where a camera is placed on the floor to see up a woman’s dress and then uploaded to porn sites. 

  • Minnesota, as well as New York, has strict laws regarding audio surveillance. CCTV could be used to monitor people in a private place without the owner needing to put up any signs e.g employees at work, so long as it is not a bathroom or changing room. But only if the camera is silent. If the camera is also listening in to conversations then everyone whose voice is recorded must give their specific permission. 
  • Hawaii has also weighed in on the issue In 1993 a court heard that employees should not be filmed in a break room, without their permission, as this was a place where they could expect privacy. 

Confused? Don’t worry!

As you can tell the law isn’t exactly crystal clear on the issue of security footage, there are lots of exemptions. Not only does it vary state-by-state, every few years a landmark case will set new guidelines. So what are your options?

Faking it

One option might be to purchase a camera that doesn't work. We stock our own fake cameras, complete with flashing red light and sturdy aluminum frame.

Fake cameras have the advantage of saving you money on an expensive camera set-up and can relieve added stress over whether you need to put up a sign or not. Since you’re not actually filming anyone you don’t have to worry about asking for permission.  

But they have some disadvantages over purchasing a real camera. A fake camera can only act as a deterrent. It might not be enough to deter criminals from breaking into your home or business. They might be willing to take the risk on you having a fake camera, even if they have no way of knowing for sure.

If a break-in does occur, you won’t have the evidence to catch them or convict them in court. 

Put up a Sign Anyway

It never hurts to be safe than sorry. Put up a sign anyway just to be safe, stating clearly to customers or passersby that they are being filmed. This can act both as a deterrent and as a way of protecting yourself from any potential lawsuits.

We have a range of signs in different sizes in both English and in Spanish. 

You could even combine a sign with a fake camera to give you complete peace of mind.

Weigh up Your options

When Reliable Chimes was founded in 1991, the internet was a novelty project that was in its earliest of days and terrorism on U.S soil was not something people considered a genuine threat they needed to think about in their everyday life.

Today it feels like there’s a lot more to consider when it comes to protecting our homes and businesses whilst also thinking about privacy but thankfully advances in technology mean we have more options than ever before to help keep us safe, at affordable prices.

Check out our complete product range on our website for all your security camera footage needs, including signs, security cameras, and fake cameras as well as much more. 

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