Whether you’re a homeowner or a renter, adding a simple doorbell camera or a full-on surveillance system is a smart security move. Burglars have even said that a home with a camera outside isn’t worth the trouble.
But what about all the activity your camera picks up that isn’t a possible burglar? Is it okay to install a security camera that’s aimed at your neighbor’s house? Can law enforcement demand your video footage?
Those are just a few of the privacy issues that get people tied up in knots over surveillance cameras. Unfortunately, privacy is rarely a simple issue. To help unravel some of those knots, we’ve got answers to the most commonly asked questions about security cameras and privacy.
No. The simple act of installing an outdoor camera to keep an eye on your home (or kids, or pet) isn’t a privacy violation. Where it gets murky is how you use your security camera and its video footage. Here are a few times when a security camera may be an invasion of privacy:
- Your camera can see into a neighbor’s home, especially if you can see private places like a bedroom or bathroom.
- You have a camera in a private place in your home.
- You use a hidden camera without consent in states where consent is required.
Yes—as long as your neighbor is only recording activity that happens in public places, like the yard or driveway. Because outside areas that are in public view have no reasonable expectation of privacy, a recorded image from a public place isn’t a violation of privacy.
The exception is if your neighbor’s video camera picks up audio conversations without your consent. In all 50 states, the one-party consent rule applies, so this could be both a privacy and a legal violation.
Technically, it probably is. Baby monitors have become the norm for parents of newborns, but a camera in a bedroom is a violation of the expectation of privacy rule. And let’s be real, your baby isn’t going to complain about an invasion of privacy, but it gets tricky if you have a nanny or visiting relatives who also get caught on camera when they’re putting the baby down.
If you live in one of the states that allows cameras in private places, this is a non-issue. For everyone else, one solution is to turn off the camera unless the baby is sleeping alone in their room. When it comes to bigger kids, think about why you want a camera in their room and look for other (totally legal) ways to keep them safe.
Learn more in our guide to nanny cam laws.
No. Recorded images from your home security camera are your private property. If law enforcement asks to see your footage to help with an investigation, you have the right to say no.
But if you’ve already posted security footage online or in an app like Ring Neighbors, the shared footage is no longer private. However, you don’t have to supply additional footage if investigators ask.
No. Posting signs for security camera recording isn’t legally required, especially if the camera is in plain sight in a public place. It’s more common to see video surveillance signs posted for businesses, not private residences. If you want to avoid potential consent issues (particularly if your state requires it) posting a sign could save you future headaches.