Whether you are visiting your neighbor, or just going on a trip to the store, cameras are watching you. But are they listening too? Find out if security cameras are allowed to record audio.
Laws nowadays can range from certain situations and even be different in each state or country. And the line between it all can sometimes be fuzzy.
It might be legal in one state, but illegal in another. Or it could simply depend on who was recorded and where.
The person's consent and the purpose of the audio recording can also have a significance. As well as what it was or is used for.
The bigger picture
The main reason for laws against is because audio recordings can be the difference between safety precautions and invading privacy.
Therefore, the legality of recording audio must be regulated. Though the regulations are a bit confusing at times.
Before setting up your camera, you should first research the state/country's regulations on whether security cameras are allowed to record audio.
Know laws and regulations that can possibly cause you trouble. And understand what you can record and if your camera is setting you up!
Legal or illegal?
Have you ever wondered why most security cameras do not have audio recording features? Well, it is to help you keep out of trouble.
This is because it is illegal to record conversations due to the "Federal wiretap law."
The law states that it is, in fact, illegal and a federal punishable crime to record a conversation between two people.
This could be employees in their break, doctors and their patients and many more. However, it is not totally illegal.
It can be legal if at least one party gives consent to be recorded. If you plan or recording audio of people you must be cautious.
Falling on the wrong side of the tracks with this can seriously lead you to some pretty high debt, and keep you busy in jail for a while.
Unless you want to face some pretty heavy fines that range from $250-$500 thousand dollars, just keep the mute on.
And if you want to keep your money, then you get a 5-year ride to jail. Just by recording someone without consent.
So make sure you ask beforehand for the person's consent. Though you only need one party to agree, ask all of the parties.
States have been given the power to decide certain things. For instance, the age of consent can vary from state to state.
This can also happen to audio surveillance laws as the states each have their own thoughts and opinions that wish to uphold.
States have specific regulations that oversee what you can and cannot do. Though audio recordings can be quite useful in investigating or in a courtroom, they are mostly illegal.
In the United States Code, it is stated that "Verbal communication between two people believing that their conversation is not being intercepted is a justifiable reason to assume it is not being recorded."
Therefore, meaning it is illegal unless both parties are in agreement and know it is happening. For example, when on the phone with a company you might be warned that the audio will be recorded.
Whatever the purpose of the recording of audio, you were warned and the employee on the other side is also aware of what is going on.
Businesses like such can avoid having legal action against them by stating to the customer that they will be recorded.
Additionally, they can also inform their employees of any audio recordings when hiring and getting a contract signed for reassurance.
There are certain places that security cameras are allowed to record audio, however, other areas are off-limits.
These areas include public stores, workplaces or a public area in general. Therefore, you should be careful once you press the record button.
However, once you see a sign that warns you that you are being recorded with video and audio, it is legal and can continue shooting.
But this can all differ from state to state as they are not the same. Researching before installing your camera is definitely the way to go.
Depending on your location, whether at home or in public, you feel different levels of privacy.
For example, changing in a dressing room and in your home is not quite the same, is it? So are cameras an invasion of privacy?
We have previously seen that you should not record audio in public. One of the main reasons for that is capturing other conversations that you have no business in nor consent.
However, in a more private place like a house, you can record conversations. With the consent of one party, or parties.
You are not allowed to record footage of someone's private places, such as a bedroom or bathroom.
But for audio, as long as you do not break wiretapping laws, the room you are in holds nothing against you.
The bottom line
Consent from at least one of multiple parties is necessary when recording in most states to keep yourself from breaking wiretapping laws that can seriously hurt your reputation and your wallet too!
Keep in mind these examples apply to your job, school, and other situations. Even when you are allowed to record, such as when speaking to a cop, let them know you are doing so.
Hope you learned something about audio recording. And when in doubt, just ask for permission!
Claudemir Martins is a former Samsung Engineer with 16+ experience in the surveillance industry. He has been traveling around 17 different countries to teach people how to design, and install CCTV systems.