When it comes to video surveillance, one of the most common questions businesses have is whether they need to notify employees and customers about their use of security cameras. The answer depends on multiple factors, including where an organization is located, the use case for the cameras, and where the cameras are installed.
This article highlights the most common scenarios for businesses and what type of notice is required for each.
For details on the legality of video surveillance in the workplace, see the article: Is It Legal to Have Security Cameras in the Office - Everything You Need to Know About Workplace Surveillance Laws.
Apart from a few exceptions, there are no U.S. federal laws prohibiting video surveillance in the workplace. Determining what level of monitoring vs. privacy is acceptable is generally left up to the states.
In almost all cases, yes—employers must disclose their video surveillance policy to employees, including the location of all security cameras.
It's highly recommended to provide this notice in writing and obtain employees' written confirmation of their understanding and consent to be recorded. Most employers will disclose the presence of security cameras in an employee handbook.
Hidden cameras are considered a violation of workplace privacy law in almost all circumstances. Some states outlaw hidden cameras outright; for example, employers in Connecticut are legally required to notify employees of security cameras. Though some courts have found the use of hidden cameras in the workplace legal in highly specific circumstances, employers should disclose all security cameras to employees.
It depends. In general, businesses are not required to disclose the presence of security cameras to customers—though they may wish to do so anyway. General video surveillance laws in the U.S. allow monitoring and recording in areas with no "reasonable expectation of privacy," and most areas where customers go are public/shared spaces. In other words, there isn’t an expectation of privacy.
Privacy rights may vary in specific protected spaces or in certain states.
Some states have stricter laws around hidden surveillance cameras—for example, New Hampshire, Maine, Kansas, South Dakota, and Delaware require consent to use hidden cameras of any kind.
In some states, security cameras are illegal anywhere with a reasonable expectation of privacy. This includes dressing rooms, bathrooms, hotel rooms, locker rooms, and more. However, other states permit video surveillance in these areas—only if there is a public notice indicating the presence of security cameras.
This variance makes it crucial for organizations to look to their local privacy laws to remain compliant.
It’s considered a best practice to provide notice of video surveillance to customers—even when it isn’t required. Doing so clearly removes the expectation of privacy, which allows the customer to make informed decisions and puts the business on firm legal ground.
Audio surveillance laws are considerably stricter than video surveillance laws. Many kinds of audio recordings are illegal, and failure to comply with requirements could lead to charges on the federal level for eavesdropping and wiretapping.
For audio surveillance to be legal, the recorded parties must be aware that they are being recorded and consent to it. In 38 states, one-party consent is required. This allows a conversation to be recorded if at least one person is aware of it. In 12 states, all-parties consent is required.
If an organization wants to use audio surveillance as part of their security solution, it’s critical to obtain participants’ consent for every piece of audio recorded. For employees, this may be achieved by including notice of audio recording in the employee handbook and obtaining a dated signature. For customers and the general public, businesses must post visible signs informing everyone that audio and video recording is occurring—this is what many retail stores do.
For organizations that want to use video surveillance, the first step is to check with your legal team to make sure that deploying security cameras is appropriate for your work environment and legal in your given locale.
In general, video recording is legal as long as it is done in public areas with no expectation of privacy. Audio recording, however, is often illegal, especially when no party is aware that it is taking place. It's highly recommended that organizations who wish to record audio closely refer to their legal team and local and federal laws.
As a rule of thumb, it's best to be transparent with employees when using cameras and properly disclose their use in any employee handbooks or other company materials given to employees to disclose company practices.
If you have any questions about using security cameras safely and legally or would like to install or upgrade your video surveillance system, please reach out to the Rhombus team at email@example.com.