video surveillance laws New York

Video Surveillance Ethics & Legalities in New York

Can I Record My Nanny? Are Audio Recordings Legal Commercially?

Home video surveillance is becoming more popular as property-related crimes have increased over the years. Another reason for its popularity is the need for parents to check in on their children, elderly loved ones, and pets when they’re not home. A lot of peace of mind can be achieved when all a person has to do is pick up their smartphone to see the kids coming home from school or that an elderly loved one with health problems is doing ok.

Parents are also having their homes outfitted with video surveillance to check in on the kids and the nanny throughout the day, while employers use them to protect their business and employees.

The many purposes of video surveillance bring up quite a few questions, however. The big question is what ethical and legal aspects should be followed when using residential and commercial video surveillance to monitor the well-being of family members, pets, employees, and businesses?

The good news is that we have some answers for you.

Protect Your Home or Business When You’re Away

What to Know about Residential Video Surveillance

When you opt for home video surveillance, cameras may be placed inside and outside of the property. When you want cameras inside so you can watch the kids, nanny, pets, or your elderly loved one when you’re not there, cameras cannot be legally or ethically placed in the bathrooms or the bedroom of a live-in nanny. Cameras also shouldn’t be installed in guest rooms since that would be violating the privacy of overnight guests. It’s fine if you want to place a camera in your own bedroom or the bedrooms of very young children.

If you hire a nanny, it is best to do the following:

  • Advise the nanny that cameras are used inside the home.
  • Show the nanny where the cameras are located.
  • Have the nanny sign an agreement in which he/she acknowledges the presence of video surveillance in the home.

When cameras are hidden and used in secret, it creates a breach of trust. It’s understandable that parents want to protect their children and homeowners want to protect their property, but it can be very unnerving for all involved when a person discovers they are being videoed without their consent. Many issues can be avoided when proper notification is given.

With that said, it is ideal to have anyone working on the property sign an agreement so that it is on paper that they are aware of the presence of the cameras. It’s also ethical and courteous to make sure non-employees entering the property are aware – through a sign or verbally – that they are under surveillance.

What to Know about Commercial Video Surveillance

Just as you would have a nanny or other residential employee sign an agreement, business owners and managers should have employees sign an agreement. This document should state that they understand that they are under video surveillance when on the property. This isn’t required by law, but it is a good practice to protect everyone, despite it being the business owner’s right to install cameras.

Cameras are typically installed to monitor the safety of all people on the premises. Business owners also have the right to ensure that the business is being cared for properly when they aren’t there.

Also note:

Many of the residential rules apply here as well. For instance, cameras are to not be installed in restrooms, locker rooms, or changing rooms. This is a breach of privacy and could be considered voyeurism.

It’s not a good day when an employer is accused of recording in areas where a reasonable amount of privacy is expected. From here comes the issue of “audio surveillance.”

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The Scoop on Video with Audio

There are some states that protect against audio recordings without the consent of the nanny or other party entering the premises. New York isn’t one of those, but, again, it is common courtesy to notify the nanny, handyman, dog walker, or another individual that the video cameras can also record audio. When the person is an employee, written consent will be needed.

The following video addresses video surveillance rules that must be followed by Realtors, but has valuable information that can apply to any property owner wishing to have home surveillance cameras installed:

Commercial Audio Surveillance – Employees

In regards to commercial video that is outfitted with audio, an employer can only use video-only surveillance when using cameras without the knowledge of employees. However, section 250.05 of the New York Penal Law states that an employer can’t eavesdrop on conversations by mechanical means anyway. Video cameras with the ability to record audio fall within this category and violation of the law constitutes a felony.

But on the other side of this very complicated coin, New York allows recording a person’s voice with their consent. If you have employees sign an agreement in which they acknowledge their voice will be recorded in certain areas of the business when present in the building, then you protect yourself against eavesdropping laws.

Commercial Audio Surveillance – Customers

As far as recording the voices of customers, there are some establishments that may need audio recording for security reasons. These establishments include:

  • Check cashing establishments
  • Banks
  • Educational testing centers
  • Convenience store/gas station counters
  • Nightclub entrances and exits

If it is a must for audio surveillance to be present, posting a sign doesn’t necessarily excuse unlawful audio reception if it occurs. It is imperative to ensure that all audio recordings are carried out lawfully. Posting a sign that says, “Entering this facility implies that you consent to audio surveillance” may suffice.

But don’t immediately opt for audio if you’re unsure about how your business can remain within the confines of the law.

If you are ever in doubt, seek legal advice from an experienced attorney. Every business and situation is different, so it is important that you define your intent so you know whether or not it violates the law. It depends on how important audio surveillance is to you.

Contact Your Western New York Security Company

SPS Fire & Security specializes in residential and business video surveillance. We use state-of-the-art equipment, commitment to the customers, and personalized service to give you the best experience possible. We also give you better protection for your home or business and we’re local! Call us today at 585-770-0348 or complete our contact form and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

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