Security Camera Laws, Rights, and Rules in Australia

The jury may be out on whether fake security cameras actually deter crime, but professional security systems or DIY security cameras are a great alternative.

But are they legal in Australia? Let’s break down the essential laws, rights, and rules you need to know if you’re considering adding security cameras to your home.

We’re not lawyers, so treat this article as general advice based on our research of publicly accessible information. If you have any questions or concerns, please speak with a legal professional.

Security camera laws, rights, and rules in Australia

There are different rules for organisations and residential security cameras. If you want to know the former, head to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) website. The OAIC details residential security requirements on the same page, which is presented in terms of people uncomfortable with security cameras pointed at their homes.

In this context, if you have an externally facing security camera or cameras, you may be approached by a neighbour asking about their privacy. If this neighbour is dissatisfied with the outcome of this discussion, they can escalate it by contacting the Attorney-General’s Department of their state or territory.

The OAIC underscores that this is because the Privacy Act doesn’t cover security cameras used in a private capacity but also acknowledges that state and territory laws may apply. For security camera owners, the OAIC advises speaking with local council about any potential local laws that should be considered. Certain councils require planning permission, while people who live in a strata-controlled property should check by-laws or speak with strata about any potential rules that need to be considered.

Generally, consider focusing security cameras on common property for those in strata-controlled homes or angled to capture private property (exclusively or predominantly) for those in houses. Also note that a lot of the state and territory guidance outlined below separates audio recording from visual recording. State and territories differ on whether explicit or implied consent is acceptable for recordings, but even where laws permit recording, that doesn’t cover the legality of sharing audio recordings or footage.

Overall, recording footage without audio may be more acceptable in most states and territories than any footage that contains audio. Refer to the specific state and territory breakdowns below for more information.

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Security camera laws, rights, and rules in New South Wales

For New South Wales, it’s more important to note audio-recording laws over visual-recording laws. The Surveillance Devices Act 2007 (NSW) allows for the installation of security cameras unless the owner of the property denies it. That’s straightforward for NSW homeowners, but renters should check with their landlords. Still, you may need the consent of any neighbours if your security cameras are pointed at their homes.

The long and short of audio recording, though, is it’s tricky because you need the express consent of anybody involved in a conversation, whether you’re part of that conversation or not.

Security camera laws, rights, and rules in Victoria

According to the Surveillance Devices Act 1999 (Vic), it’s permissible for audio recordings that capture a conversation the person is involved in. That said, it’s illegal to record any private activity without the permission of the other person or people, which may include neighbours.

Security camera laws, rights, and rules in Queensland

The big takeaway from Queensland’s approach to security cameras is that you’re not recording people without their consent when they’re in places they can reasonably expect to be private (bedroom, bathroom, etc.). When it comes to positioning security cameras in Queensland, avoid positioning them in a way that might capture the backyards or pools of your neighbours. If neighbours feel their privacy is being violated, they can complain to the Queensland Police Service.

The Office of the Information Commissioner Queensland encourages concerned people to speak with neighbours who have security cameras. If unresolved, that person can speak to a community mediation service or the police if they believe it’s in breach of the Criminal Code.

It's noted that body corporates may have rules that dictate the placement of surveillance cameras. If you have concerns, speak with your body corporate. As for audio recording, it’s generally lawful to record audio if you’re involved in the conversation but there are laws that apply to how that recording can be used. Note that the Invasion of Privacy Act 1971 (Qld) states that you cannot record a private conversation that you’re not involved in.

Security camera laws, rights, and rules in Western Australia

Western Australia audio-recording laws state that private conversations you’re not part of should not be recorded. Even if you’re involved in a recorded conversation, you need the consent of all participating people for it to be considered legal.

It’s the same thing for visually recording a private activity, even if the camera owner is part of that recording. If everyone consents to the recording either explicitly or implicitly, that’s okay. Security cameras don’t need permission for installation, but you do need a licensed installer if you opt for professional installation.

Security camera laws, rights, and rules in South Australia

Like other states, South Australia forbids the audio recording of private conversations unless all people involved expressly consent to being recorded. Similarly, the Surveillance Devices Act 2016 (SA) forbids the recording of private activities without the express or implied consent of everyone involved in the recording.

Security camera laws, rights, and rules in Tasmania

It’s illegal to audio record private conversations in Tasmania, even if you’re part of that conversation. That said, the Listening Devices Act 1991 (Tas) notes that there are exceptions, including substantial property damage or an imminent threat of serious violence.

At the time of writing, this Act had not been updated to explicitly cover video-recording laws. Technically, this means using a video-only security camera bypasses the strict audio-recording laws.

Security camera laws, rights, and rules in the Northern Territory

Like a lot of states and territories in Australia, the big takeaway from the Surveillance Devices Act 2007 (NT) is not to record private activities. For audio recording, any recordings of private conversation where you don’t have implied or explicit consent are restricted whether you’re involved in them or not.

It’s the same thing for videorecording, too: no recording of private activities without the explicit consent of everyone involved.

Security camera laws, rights, and rules in the Australian Capital Territory

As is the recurring theme of this page, the Listening Devices Act 1992 (ACT) stipulates that it’s an offence to record private conversations even if you’re involved in that conversation or, seemingly, even if you have consent.

Note that only audio recordings are explicitly outlined in this Act for the ACT, so there isn’t any official guidance for the visual component of security cameras.

FAQ

Yes and no. It’s a tricky answer because it depends based on federal and state laws, as well as where the camera is pointed. For instance, it’s a big no-no for security cameras to record people without their consent in places they expect to be private (bathroom, bedroom, etc.).
While you don’t need permission to put up a security camera in or on your home (unless you’re renting; check with your landlord first), be mindful of what’s being recorded by the cameras. If you’re uncertain of potentially private areas being captured, speak to the corresponding neighbours to gauge their comfort.
While some security cameras are equipped to record audio, you may want to disable this feature. Depending on your state or territory, it may be illegal to record audio of conversations that you’re not involved in (without the other person or people’s consent).

Disclaimer
Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time of publish and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on the retailer’s website at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. SafeWise Australia utilises paid affiliate links.
Nathan Lawrence
Written by
Nathan Lawrence

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