Smart phones, iPhone’s, cell phones, they are literally everywhere and with that comes an exceptionally good piece of technology: A Camera! Gone are the days when you need to break out the camcorder, digital camera, or any other fancy recording device…taking videos and pictures with your phone requires little investment and absolutely no training. Sure, the latest iPhone X will have the best camera capabilities, but any smart phone can do the job (today’s smart phones have much better resolution than even modern digital cameras or camcorders).

Let’s look at some of the common reasons you may want to capture some video with your phone or camcorder:

Tips for A Good Video Surveillance

  • Installing a device such as the Ring video doorbell will allow you to watch your property and protect your belongings. The Ring doorbell and similar security systems contain a security camera installed in the actual doorbell to capture anything that happens on your porch, driveway, or even your street. It also allows you to view who is at your door before opening it – another good security measure.
Video Surveillance
  • If you suspect a neighbor or a prankster of doing something harmful to your property such as dumping junk or committing vandalism, capturing it on video will go a long way to finding and prosecuting the perpetrators.
  • Maybe you suspect that your partner or spouse is cheating on you. What better way to find out than to capture the betrayal on video before you confront him or her?
  • Sometimes you may not be at home, but your children are. Perhaps you want to monitor them when they are home alone, check to see what they are doing on the Internet, or find out who they are talking to on their phones. Video can be a great way to obtain peace of mind.
  • In recent years, the “nanny cam” has become very popular. They are placed in the living area, playroom, or children’s bedrooms in order to observe any hired help or babysitters and how they interact with your children. It can also make sure that your cleaning service doesn’t steal from you as well.

At times, capturing surveillance outside of your house or property can be advantageous and used for the greater good. Sometimes there may be a rash of neighborhood robberies or crime sprees, and the police may ask if you have any security footage of your house or street. This would be extremely helpful to them in identifying the criminals or setting up a sting operation to catch them in the act.

Your doorbell camera or video security system can capture illegal wrongdoings in the middle of the night, which can help the police identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice. In addition, recording accidents or crimes are helpful in most civil lawsuits and criminal prosecutions—many cases are won or lost based on footage from nearby cameras, according to one legal expert. So having video surveillance can be useful besides its original intention.

These are some of the good things you can do with a video camera.  But which of these scenarios can you do legally?

The general rule is that you can do whatever you want on your own property. Installing the Ring doorbell/security system, flying a drone to check damage on your roof, and installing a listening device in the bedroom to try and catch a cheating partner are all legal to do in your own house. Even hiding a nanny cam in your child’s bedroom to make sure that you hired an honest nanny or babysitter who treats your child well is perfectly legal.

But the minute you point your camera or phone into someone else’s private space though, you may be violating the law.

In more public places, the standard of “reasonable expectation of privacy” will apply. In other words, you can take video of people who are in open, public places such as a park, parking lot, or even a restaurant where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy—going to a restaurant or mall is implicitly a public outing, not a private one.

However, recording video in places such as hotel rooms, restrooms, and locker rooms are not allowed. There is an expectation of privacy in these places, so no cameras allowed.

And just in case you think that you can opt to use an audio recorder to get around this law, think again. Audio recordings actually face stricter laws than silent video recordings, so tread carefully. Surveillance laws may also vary from state to state, so it’s always a good idea to check with a professional for your particular state if there are any questions to the legality of it.

Any time you are shooting video or recording audio, it can be tricky. If you aren’t absolutely sure if what you are doing is legal, it’s better to hire a private investigator who is familiar with your state’s particular laws on video and audio surveillance.

As Manhattan private investigator Darrin Giglio says, “Private investigators know the law in their state. We know how to conduct video surveillance in a manner that lets you use it safely and legally.”

Hiring an investigator not only saves you the legal hassle, it can also help you meet your initial objectives without having to become an amateur sleuth yourself. If it’s a big enough issue that you have contemplated surveillance, then perhaps hiring a professional would be the best move of all.


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