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Hidden Camera Video Surveillance – Is It Legal?


Installing hidden cameras around your home can be an effective way to constantly monitor any activity. Hidden camera surveillance can help you to identify any potential burglars or intruders, as well as allow you to keep an eye on your children’s babysitter. However, a question that many people often ask – “Is Hidden Camera Surveillance Legal?” is subject to a lot of controversy.

Hidden Camera Laws

In general, it’s illegal to obtain video surveillance of someone with the intent of using for blackmail or other malicious purposes. It is also illegal to take video surveillance of an individual in a place of “expected privacy”, where the surveillance will violate specific privacy laws. These “expected privacy” locations may include:

  • Bedrooms
  • Bathrooms
  • Locker Rooms
  • Dressing Rooms
  • Changing Rooms
  • Hotel Rooms

However, not every state has a law that expressly prohibits unauthorized installation of cameras in private locations. In some states, it’s legal to install cameras in these locations, as long as it has been authorized by the owner of the property. However, the following states deem it illegal to install hidden cameras in places of privacy:

  • South Dakota
  • New Hampshire
  • Utah
  • Michigan
  • Maine 
  • Minnesota
  • Kansas
  • Hawaii
  • Deleware
  • California
  • Georgia
  • Arkansas
  • Alabama

Some states have laws that do not allow trespassing on private property in order to obtain unauthorized hidden camera surveillance. These states include:

  • Hawaii
  • Alabama
  • South Dakota
  • Minnesota
  • Maine
  • Kansas
  • Delaware
  • Michigan
  • Georgia
  • Utah

Hidden Cameras In Your Home

In general, you are entitled to install a hidden surveillance camera in your home for purposes of safety or home security. The footage captured on this camera may be able to be used in court, when prosecuting an individual caught breaking the law within your home. However, some states do prohibit the use of hidden surveillance cameras that also capture audio. This means that a surveillance tape with audio may not be able to be used in a court prosecution. States that don’t allow you to capture audio without the person’s express content include:

  • Washington
  • Pennsylvania
  • Oregon
  • New Hampshire
  • Nevada
  • Montana
  • Massachusetts
  • Maryland
  • Louisiana
  • Illinois
  • Hawaii
  • Florida
  • Delaware
  • Connecticut
  • California

A Note About Intent

Since a lot of states have a “gray area” when it comes to hidden camera surveillance, the concept of “intent” has often been brought into the legal spotlight. If you are taking hidden video surveillance of your nanny to ensure that she is keeping your children safe, this is seen as acceptable intent. However, if you are taking video surveillance of visitors to your home in order to blackmail them in some way, this is seen as malicious intent. It’s also illegal, as stated before, to take hidden video of people in places of expected privacy in certain states.

Hidden Cameras in Businesses

When it comes down to it, the prospect of being videotaped without our knowledge can be very uncomfortable to think about. However, you may be subject to hidden video surveillance several times per day. Many businesses use video surveillance systems (either hidden or within view) in order to promote the security of their business. These cameras can help catch thieves or shoplifters within a business, and can also allow the company’s security to identify any dangerous or illegal activity. However, where should companies draw the line? Should it be legal for companies to install video surveillance in dressing rooms, since this is where many shoplifters procure their stolen goods?

As of right now, there is a lot of controversy as to how much hidden video surveillance is legal. However, when it comes to home security, you are entitled to install hidden surveillance cameras within your home, as long as you have a verifiable purpose for doing so.