Hidden Cameras and the Law

There are a lot of questions concerning hidden cameras, including if recording video with a hidden camera or spy camera is legal. Hidden camera laws vary by state. We answer common questions business owners and homeowners have regarding the use of covert surveillance cameras and the laws.

As a business owner and employer, can I use hidden cameras to record video in the workplace?

While State and Federal Government laws regarding the use of hidden cameras in the workplace are less clearly-defined than covert surveillance for home use, it’s generally acceptable to use spy cameras to record video in public places—including places of business, restaurants, hospitals, convenience stores and retail stores.

It’s also generally legal to record video at public gathering spaces, including town squares and parks, and on city streets, as well as shopping malls. However, expectation of privacy laws apply—for example, it’s illegal to use a hidden camera to record video in public bathrooms, locker rooms, hotel rooms and other private areas.

If you are an employer or small business owner, it’s generally legal to use covert cameras in the workplace, without having to legally notify employees of the presence of hidden cameras.

If you are an employer and business owner of a large enterprise that employs union workers, you can follow the guidelines established by the National Labor Relations Board, regarding using hidden cameras in the workplace. Since the State and Federal Government laws are less clearly defined, employers can work with the appropriate trade unions to establish rules governing the use of hidden security cameras at a large corporation that employs union workers.

And, similarly to placing hidden cameras for use in public places, it’s advisable to consult with a lawyer before installing the hidden cameras in your place of business.

As a homeowner, is it legal to record surveillance video with a hidden camera in my home?

Hidden camera laws vary by state; however, it’s generally legal to record surveillance video with a spy camera, nanny cam or hidden camera in your home without consent of the person being recorded. The use of hidden cameras is generally acceptable in common areas of the home, but not acceptable where subjects have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as bathrooms and bedrooms.

To ensure your state allows the use of hidden cameras, it’s best to research the specific laws provided by your state. It’s also important to note that it is never legal in the United States to use hidden surveillance cameras to record video to be used for malicious intent or blackmail.

As a business owner, is it legal to record audio with a hidden camera or covert audio recording device?

The laws regarding recording covert audio are much more established than the laws regarding covert video surveillance. In general, the law defines covert audio devices as anything that is intentionally designed to covertly intercept oral communication. Each state has its own laws regarding the use of covert audio. However, federal law, known as the USC (United States Code), supersedes state law.