Video Surveillance Systems

This is not a normal topic for me, but it is one that needs to be discussed and thought about.

It is very common to see video cameras everywhere we go today; businesses, homes, traffic lights, and even crosswalk signs have cameras today. So what is legal and what is potentially illegal about these systems.

At your home or business any camera you install must have at least 60% of it field of vision clearly recording your property. Going beyond that and you start getting into some pretty sketchy areas of the law related to voyeurism and other crimes. Cameras cannot be placed where they watch activities inside bedrooms or bathrooms (felony level voyeurism).

More recent cameras and systems now record audio. This brings whole new sets of laws into play. In Washington State it is 100% illegal for anyone or any device to record/transmit any conversation without the express consent of ALL parties present. The only exceptions to this law require that you be a police officer, firefighter, have a legal warrant to record, or are an active member of the press documenting an event by interview. There is also an exception written into law for all government offices in Washington State.

We are all inundated with videos on Twitter, Facebook, Nextdoor, YouTube and many other places now that show various activities that have occurred. Many of these videos have audio in them. That “innocent” doorbell cam footage you shared is illegal to share unless you have written permission from everyone in it before it was recorded. Nest, Ring, WyzeCam, Arlo and more all illegally share/record their audio/video simply by posting it to a cloud service or memory device where you (or someone else) can access the saved media. Ring was recently revealed to have employees watching these videos “in house” and was even hacked such that nefarious actors around the world could watch and listen to them.

My takeaways from this:
1- Video cameras are OK, though some jurisdictions require a permit.
2- Microphones will get you in trouble.
3- Your insurance will not cover illegal activities you committed.
4- Ring (Amazon), Nest (Google), and the rest will not cover your legal bills related to using their product. They clearly indicate that they record and/or transmit audio, it is up to you to know the law.
5- Simply posting that you record audio and video will not protect you in court; in point of fact it will go against you. By all means post that you record video, that is perfectly legal; just don’t record audio.

Link to Washington law: http://leg.wa.gov/CodeReviser/documents/sessionlaw/1986c38.pdf?cite=1986%20c%2038%20%C2%A7%201;


3 thoughts on “Video Surveillance Systems

  1. Our system is hardwired.I know this is old-fashioned, but it is our opinion that if we can access anything wirelessly, so can a good hacker.
    A couple years ago, there was a rash of car break-ins in our neighborhood. (Our vehicle was locked in our garage, so safe.) The investigating officer noticed we had cameras, so asked if he could view the footage and see if there were any clues. My husband let him take the hard drive (returned it 2 days later and was pleased to report that they had been able to enhance faces and make arrests.) Our cameras mainly cover our property and a portion of the road in front of our house, so I was surprised the data was useful.

    Liked by 1 person

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