The term nanny cam is a colloquial term that is used to describe small hidden cameras that people may install in their homes for the purpose of monitoring a babysitter/nanny. The typical reason that a nanny cam may be utilized is for the person that installs the camera to ensure that their child is being well taken care of and not abused by the babysitter.
In many cases a nanny cam will be hidden within an object so that the babysitter does not know that they are being filmed. For example, a nanny cam may be hidden in a teddy bear or a picture frame on a mantel.
Nanny cam laws are essentially laws that regulate the use of nanny cams or security cameras in one’s home. It is important to note that nanny cameras are often considered in the same regard as installing security cameras inside or outside one’s home.
Can I Legally Install a Nanny Cam in My Home?
As mentioned above, nanny cameras are considered security cameras. It is currently legal in every state in the United States to install a security camera in one’s home. Specifically, it is legal in all 50 states to make a video recording of anything occurring in one’s home, at any time, without the consent of the person that is being recorded.
Whether or not the camera is hidden or not, such as a nanny cam, does not affect the legality of the video recording. Additionally, it is also legal to record video outside the home, so long as the video being recorded is limited to the owner’s property.
Although it is legal in every state to video record someone in your home, there are multiple states that require the consent of the party being recorded if the recording also contains audio. As such, nanny cameras that also record audio may not be allowed in some states.
As of the writing of this article the following states require that an individual using a nanny cam to inform and receive consent from anyone that they are going to make an audio recording of:
- New Hampshire;
- Pennsylvania; and
Audio recordings are a different story. While some states have no special laws regarding these either, it is illegal to record someone’s voice without their permission in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington State. The merchant selling the camera will likely be familiar with your state’s laws concerning this, so be sure to ask before you buy anything or consult with an employment lawyer first.
One of the most common legal issue related to nanny cameras is the recording of audio in the states that have two party consent laws. In such cases, the audio recording of the individual with the nanny camera may be considered an invasion of that individual’s privacy. As such, the individual that was recorded without giving their consent would be able to initiate a civil lawsuit against the party that recorded them without their consent.
Another major legal issue is the purpose of the nanny camera. As mentioned above, nanny cams and the laws surrounding the use of nanny cams are intended to protect the use of cameras utilized for the purpose of safety and security. This means that the purpose of the camera plays an important role in whether or not an individual can record others in their home.
In general, people who set up nanny cams in order to ensure their children are safe or to make sure their babysitter isn’t stealing or damaging their property are allowed to utilize a camera. Ensuring the safety of those in the home and the security of the property present in the home are both legitimate and permissible purposes for recording others.
However, there are many state laws that address impermissible uses of nanny cams. For example, if the camera is being used for a commercial purpose, then they will not be allowed. Additionally, there are numerous states that have laws that make it illegal to record anyone in a private area, such as a bathroom.
I’ve Been Videotaped Without My Knowledge – Can the Tape Be Used in Court?
Whether or not a recording can be used in court will depend on the local rules of that court and state law. Courts are split over the admissibility of nanny cam recordings in court, but most states permit the admission of video recordings made for the purposes of ensuring safety and security in one’s own home.
While many states have laws regulating the taping of someone in a private area where they have an expectation of privacy, most states agree that such expectation of privacy does not extend to a home that isn’t one’s own home. There are some exceptions to this rule, such as utilizing nanny cams in bathrooms, but the general rule is that people are permitted to film anything in their own home.
However, if an individual lives in one of the previously mentioned states, and the video also has sound, then the recording may violate wiretapping laws. Further, if the consent of the other party to the audio recording is not given, the admission of the video with audio will typically not be allowed. One way to still admit a video in court may be to mute the audio portion of the video, but some court’s may have rules about altering the original recording file.
Once again, courts only allow the use of nanny cams for acceptable and reasonable purposes, such as monitoring one’s own children or property. As such, if the court finds that the purpose of the nanny cam was for an illegal purpose, such as voyeurism or disclosing private information to the public, then the recording will not be allowed and the owner of the recording may be open to criminal and civil penalties.
What Is A Reasonable Expectation Of Privacy?
As mentioned above, people have a reasonable expectation of privacy in many different areas. The 4th Amendment explicitly states that American citizens have the right to be free from warrantless searches in areas in which they have a “reasonable expectation of privacy.”
Examples of the most common places in which a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy include:
- Places of residence, such as their own home;
- Hotel rooms that they paid for;
- Certain inherently private places, such as restrooms; and
- Specific areas of a vehicle, which may vary by jurisdiction.
This reasonable expectation is in place so that the police and other such authorities need a search warrant before they can search these areas in which privacy is expected. However, this reasonable expectation of privacy also plays a role in nanny cam and video recording laws.
What About Workplace Privacy Laws?
In comparison to the reasonable expectation of privacy in a person’s private life, an individual’s legal right to privacy in the workplace is considerably reduced. In the workplace, because the space technically belongs to the employer, an individual has less rights to privacy.
It is important to note that workplace privacy laws are generally only applied to businesses. As such, if you are working out of someone’s home, you will likely have little legal recourse to being recorded. However, video and audio recordings are a modern issue, and as such an individual may challenge themself being recorded as an invasion of privacy. This is especially true in cases in which the recording is being done for an illegal purpose.
Do I Need an Attorney for Help With Nanny Cameras?
If you believe that your privacy has been invaded, or you have been filmed illegally by a hidden nanny camera, then it is in your best interests to immediately consult an experienced workplace lawyer.
An experienced attorney will be able to advise as to whether or not the recording made of you is illegal according to your state laws, and whether or not you have any legal recourse against the owner of the camera. If legal recourse is available, an experienced attorney can initiate a lawsuit on your behalf, and represent you in court, as necessary.