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Are You Required to Notify Employees or Customers That You Have Security Cameras?

December 01, 2017

When we first talk to potential customers, one of the most common questions we get is whether they have to notify employees or their customers if they use security cameras.  The answer to that question can vary depending on where you are located, where you have the cameras, and what you are using the cameras for.  Below we've highlighted the most common scenarios and what is required for each.

Video (Only) Surveillance

In general, there are no federal laws prohibiting video surveillance.  Numerous states like California prohibit the use of cameras anywhere there is a reasonable expectation of privacy like bathrooms, locker rooms, changing rooms, or any other location like that.  Some states only require a notice for putting cameras in these locations so it's best to check with your local legal professional if you're unsure about a certain location and if you're allowed to place a camera there.

For your employees, it's advisable to let them know that cameras are in common areas and most employers will often do this by disclosing their presence in an employee handbook.

Audio Surveillance

There are numerous federal and state laws around audio recording and most of them make it illegal.  Thirty-eight states allow recording if at least one party in a conversation consents to it and twelve states require both parties to consent to the recording.  This means that if no parties consent (public camera), then it's illegal in all fifty states.

If your state does allow the recording of audio and you need it for business purposes, then it's advisable to let your employees and customers know and it might be required by law either through signage and/or having employees sign a consent (usually done through an employee handbook).

Given the legal issues around audio recording, we strongly advise all customers to consult with their legal teams before using this feature.  Furthermore, we put strict safeguards in our product asking the user if they have the legal authority to enable this feature.  If they do enable the feature, we log who enabled it and when in case this information is ever needed.

When is signage necessary?

As long as you are only capturing video and the cameras are in an area where privacy isn't expected, then signage isn't generally necessary (this could be different outside the US).  In certain situations it's a good precaution to have them anyway especially if you are worried about theft or other events where you want people to know there are cameras around.

As discussed above, if you are doing audio recording, then signs might be necessary which really depends on the particular state or locale.

Best Practices

It goes without saying, but the first step is to always check with your legal team to make sure deploying security cameras is appropriate for your work environment and legal in your given locale.

In general though, video recording is legal (at least in the US) as long as it is done in public areas where there is no expectation of privacy.  Audio recording, however, is often illegal especially when no party is aware that it is taking place.

We feel it's best to be transparent with employees when you are using cameras and to properly disclose their use in any employee handbooks or other company materials given to employees to disclose company practices.

Security cameras are a great tool, but some consideration for local laws must be considered before using them.

Some reading and sources that might be useful:

  1. Video Surveillance Laws by State
  2. Audio Surveillance Laws by State
  3. Video Surveillance Rules in the Workplace

We'll continue to update this with more articles as we come across them