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What to Know About Surveillance Cameras in California

In recent times, home security systems such as Nest have exploded onto the scene. And, in California, such video recording systems are entirely legal. However, there are specific rules and regulations surrounding Surveillance Camera Sign Law In California that you should be aware of.

Parents install “nanny cams” to make sure their children are being treated appropriately by caregivers.

Uber drivers install “dash cams” to make sure there is evidence if someone attacks them in their car.

While there are undoubtedly strong public policy considerations for allowing such surveillance, there is also public policy against invading an individual’s privacy. The following is a brief discussion about some of the restrictions against such recordings.

First, surveillance cameras are NOT permitted in places where someone would have an expectation of privacy. This included bathrooms, dressing rooms, and the like.

Second, California is a “two-party consent” state, meaning that a recording is unlawful unless both parties agree to its recording. Of course, if there is no reasonable expectation of privacy, such as being at a Dodger game or a party, consent is implicitly given just by the fact that you are in public.

At work, Surveillance Camera Sign Law In California comes into play quite often. Indeed, an office is a place where an employee may have a reasonable expectation of privacy, and, as such, video surveillance is not permitted. However, an employer can often get around this if (i) it has a clearly defined and communicated workplace policy regarding video surveillance and/or (ii) there are signs posted making it explicitly clear that there is a camera recording people in the office.

So surveillance cameras in the workplace should be conspicuous, and workers should be told that they are there. As with most laws, there are exceptions. For example, if an employer believes an employee is committing wrongdoing, such as theft or stealing confidential information, a secret camera may be used lawfully to confirm that this is happening. However, even in such a circumstance, the recording should be focused on the suspected wrongdoing and not just generally taken of the employee over a long period of time.

In this developing area of the law, it is not always clear as to whether or not the recording is acceptable or violative of the law. For example, even though it took place in a low-walled cubicle where people spoke out loud quite often, a journalist’s secret recording of a person was considered improper in a case called Sanders v. American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.

Until more fully developed, Surveillance Camera Sign Law In California is the ultimate “better be safe than sorry” area of the law. At the end of the day, as long as you understand the “two-party consent” theory and do what you can to avoid invading someone’s privacy, you should be OK. It is always a good idea to speak to experienced attorneys before taking any such action of which you are unsure.

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