Thanks to wireless technology and cheaper prices, video surveillance at home is no longer an outlier. More people than ever before have video cameras keeping an eye on the front door, the driveway, and various places inside their homes. Many people even use hidden video cameras. But what’s the deal with those? Does anything go?
It is normal to assume that you can do anything you want with hidden video cameras inside your own home. That’s not quite true. There are some limits to hidden video surveillance dictated mostly by state law. And because state laws vary so much, you would have to check the law where you live to know exactly what is and is not allowed.
Vivint has published a pretty extensive guide on the use of hidden video surveillance cameras. You can read it here. Should you decide to do so, bear in mind that both hidden and clearly visible video cams serve different purposes. Think about utilizing both in your overall security plan.
The Reasonable Expectation of Privacy
A good place to start this discussion is with a reasonable expectation of privacy. This expectation is part of a broad legal doctrine governing how video surveillance cameras can be used, both in public buildings and private homes. The general rule is this: video cameras cannot be placed in any space where people have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
This is why it is illegal to install cameras in public restrooms. It is why department stores cannot put cameras in changing rooms, even if they are dealing with rampant theft. But understand that a reasonable expectation of privacy isn’t confined just to public spaces. It also applies to private homes.
You may have guests in your home from time to time. They may sleep in your spare bedroom and use any bathroom in the house. In so doing, they have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Therefore, you cannot place video cameras in bathrooms and bedrooms unless you don’t plan to have any visitors. Some states even warn against bedroom and bathroom cameras if you have children.
Public Spaces Are Okay
As for public spaces, where no privacy is expected, video cams are legal. Shopping centers have them throughout public retail spaces. Office buildings have cameras mounted in lobbies, hallways, and even elevators. At home, areas like the living room and kitchen are considered public spaces.
All exterior spaces are considered public, too. Therefore, it is completely legal to utilize both hidden and visible video cameras to monitor the outside of homes, offices, business properties, etc. The one caveat here is that it is not legal to use video cameras on your property as a means of spying on your neighbor.
Hidden vs. Visible Video Cameras
Next up is the question of whether you should utilize hidden or fully visible video cameras. That really depends on what you are trying to accomplish. Fully visible ones can act as deterrents to crime. In fact, numerous studies involving burglars have demonstrated that they avoid houses equipped with surveillance systems whenever possible.
On the other hand, visible cameras are easier for burglars to locate and disable. A typical small-time burglar looking to make a quick score would prefer to stay away from those. But a burglar targeting a particular house because of known valuables inside may be willing to make an attempt at disabling cameras first.
As for hidden cameras, their main advantage is their ability to monitor and record activity with stealth. They are ideal if you suspect something unsavory is happening in your house or on your property and you want proof without letting others know of your suspicions.
Common Uses for Hidden Cameras
Hiding video cams can be an exercise in letting out your inner spy. You can buy run-of-the-mill video cameras that are designed with no attempt to disguise them. You place them in discrete locations you do not expect people to look at. But you can also buy those disguised to look like something else.
Camera makers are ingenious with their disguises. You can buy video cameras disguised to look like artwork, food packages, soda cans, and books. Virtually any household item can become a camera housing for an enterprising designer.
So who uses these types of surveillance cams? There are tons of possibilities. Homeowners use hidden video cameras for all sorts of purposes:
- Keeping an Eye on the Sitter – A hidden video camera is a way to keep an eye on the sitter if you suspect any possibility of behavior you normally don’t allow your house. Video monitoring makes it easier to know if the sitter is actually doing what is expected.
- Monitoring Contractors – Hidden video surveillance is often used to monitor contractors working inside a customer’s home. That way, the customer doesn’t have to take time off from work to be home when contractors are there.
- Watching Pets – Pet owners might use hidden video cams to keep an eye on Rover and Mittens. The cameras are not hidden for the animals’ benefit. They are hidden so that guests aren’t made uncomfortable when they visit.
Hidden video cameras aren’t just for interior spaces. People use them outdoors, too. For example, a hidden camera can reveal whetheryour suspicions of neighborhood kids swimming in your pool at night are legitimate.
Deploying Visible Cameras
As far as visible cams are concerned, deterrence and general monitoring are their two main functions. This post has already discussed deterring criminals, but the principle is worth repeating. Criminals do not like video cameras. Video cameras represent knowledge and evidence. Burglars will avoid homes with surveillance systems if they can find suitable targets that aren’t being monitored.
In terms of general monitoring, think of keeping an eye on your pets or making sure the kids are doing their homework after school. There are all sorts of legitimate reasons to monitor spaces inside and outside your home. Sometimes you want visible cameras, other times you want cameras hidden. There is room for both.