Rules on the Legal Use of Video Surveillance

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Rules on the Legal Use of Video Surveillance
Security cameras are becoming more common in work environments. (cctv security camera. image by wrangler from Fotolia.com)

Progressively more companies are installing security cameras in office environments. Banks, malls and other public places often install cameras. Employers use video surveillance to monitor and reduce instances of theft, to improve security and to check on employee behaviour. Despite the advantages for management, many employees regard video surveillance as a violation of their privacy, and employers must be knowledgeable about the laws that govern the use of this equipment.

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Hidden Camera Laws

In the U.S., the laws of 13 states prohibit the unauthorised installation or use of video surveillance cameras in private places. These states include Maine, Hawaii, Kansas, Alabama, Utah, California, Georgia, Arkansas, Delaware, New Hampshire, Delaware, Michigan, Minnesota and South Dakota. The law describes a public place as one where an individual can reasonably expect to be protected from unauthorised surveillance. Ten of these states, namely Georgia, Alabama, Utah, Minnesota, South Dakota, Michigan, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine and Kansas, prohibit the trespassing on private property in order to take part in surveillance. A fine of £1,300 and a prison sentence of up to two years is imposed for the unauthorised installation of video surveillance equipment, in most of the previously mentioned states. Many states prohibit the use of video surveillance equipment in areas where individuals are partly or fully naked and can expect an elevated level of personal privacy. Such areas will include locker rooms, dressing rooms and bathrooms.

Covert Surveillance

Covert video surveillance is only legal if the individual being videotaped is in public view. The video camera can be hidden on someone's person or can be hidden within a bag or similar device, and the person using the video camera is not required to notify the individual who is being taped, provided that the taping occurs only in public.

Collection of Personal Information Using a Video Surveillance System

A survey held in 2005 by the American Management Association indicated that more than half of those employers who responded utilised video surveillance in the workplace to counter sabotage, theft or violence. Provided that such video surveillance does not occur in areas of the workplace where employees can expect a reasonable amount of privacy, American laws do not prohibit the use of video cameras by employers.

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