Posted on June 15, 2019 in Attorney Insights
Since the attacks in September 2001, the United States government has spent billions of dollars on security and surveillance cameras. The purpose of these cameras has been to prevent crime, while privacy advocates have created an uproar about the erosion of personal liberty. Surveillance and security cameras are also available on the public level for the same reasons; protection and security. Some people feel more at ease to know there are eyes on the lookout everywhere, while others feel threatened.
Neighbors and other individuals question the legality of these surveillance cameras as they interfere with their own private security.
Surveillance and technology seem to go hand in hand. As technology develops, so does surveillance, such as with the development of aerial drones. Laws have not caught up to the use of aerial drones, but their presence poses a significant threat to privacy. The public is concerned about the privacy of their homes and their yards either to neighbors or government uses of aerial drones.
Another advancement in technology has been the use of body cams on police officers. These small cameras adhere to the chest. They were originally developed to address complaints about police misconduct but have also been useful at providing evidence against those alleged of a crime. In the eye of the public, this means that there are hidden security cameras walking around on police officers everywhere, which is threatening to their personal privacy.
Although surveillance was developed as a benefit and method of preventing crime, more people are concerned about their own privacy instead of the good of protecting them. As a good rule of thumb, if it is an area where privacy is expected, do not use surveillance cameras.
Outside is the most convenient and legal place to use surveillance cameras. Typically, anywhere that is outside is considered public property and therefore fair game for security cameras. Individuals do not have a right to privacy while in public. That is why buildings will often put several security cameras outside the building facing the street, allowing them to track who comes in and out, cases of theft, and even slip and fall accidents. The only exception to surveillance cameras outside is if the camera is positioned specifically at something private, such as a bedroom. Any security cameras that purposely intend to invade another’s privacy is considered illegal.
Inside surveillance cameras are inherently more complicated. Inside, the same rules apply, cameras may not be placed in a location where privacy is expected. This means that security cameras used in store fronts to prevent shoplifting are permitted, unless they are in a location that one normally expects privacy, such as a dressing room. While dressing rooms and bathrooms have been up for debate, it has been common practice for stores to refrain from doing so in order to keep customer loyalty. Other off-limit rooms include rooms that are rented, hotel rooms, and a locker rooms. The idea is that although security is helpful, people should be allowed to feel secure and private in certain areas.