Thanks very much for your questions!
I took them to the Center for Social and Legal Research.
The Director there discussed your concerns at length with the legal
staff. They were very adamant about this: you need more expertise
than a researcher can give you, you need to consult a lawyer. The
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse gave me the same response.
They say that the law concerning recording of conversations
is not ?settled? yet. Because the technology is so new, there is a
patchwork of federal, state, and local laws governing the manufacture,
sale, transport, and use of video and audio recording devices. The
patchwork is complex because the federal laws don?t pre-empt the local
ones. So your local jurisdiction could make a law more stringent than
the federal one, or the state one. Each jurisdiction is so different,
that any ?answers? I could offer would risk liability for Google
Answers, for me, and for you. And, as they told me, ?Ignorance of the
law is no excuse.?
You can find The Center for Social & Legal Research website for privacy
issues, PrivacyExchange.org at:
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse is at:
That said, I can, give you some general guidelines I found in my
research, and direct you to more specific information.
First of all, you are concerned that you as a vendor may be legally
restricted. My gut feeling was wrong. Yes, you as a vendor are indeed
covered under the laws. For example in California, the Penal Code
?635. (a) Every person who manufactures, assembles, sells,
offers for sale, advertises for sale, possesses, transports,
imports, or furnishes to another any device which is primarily or
exclusively designed or intended for eavesdropping upon the
communication of another, or any device which is primarily or
exclusively designed or intended for the unauthorized interception
or reception of communications between cellular radio telephones
or between a cellular radio telephone and a landline telephone in
Section 632.5, or communications between cordless telephones or
between a cordless telephone and a landline telephone in violation of
Section 632.6, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding two
thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500), by imprisonment in the county
jail not exceeding one year, or in the state prison, or by both that
fine and imprisonment. If the person has previously been
convicted of a violation of this section, the person shall be
punished by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000), by
imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year, or in the
state prison, or by both that fine and imprisonment.?
The California code does make exceptions for those providing the
devices for federal, state, or local law enforcement officers, or
Very often, the audio picked up by a video camera is covered by the
same laws as wiretapping and eavesdropping. Those laws vary by state.
There is a general rule, however, that applies to the kind of
conversations a business security camera or nanny-cam would pick up:
?Regardless of the state, it is almost always illegal to record a
conversation to which you are not a party, do not have consent to
tape, and could not naturally overhear.?
That is pretty much the definition of ?eavesdropping? and is
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
The RCFP HAS A VERY HELPFUL SUMMARY OF EACH STATE?S
EAVESDROPPING AND WIRETAPPING LAWS, AT:
Here is part of that site?s synopsis of Florida law, which you referred
?Fla. Stat. ch. 934.03: All parties must consent to the recording
or the disclosure of the contents of any wire, oral or electronic
communication in Florida. Recording or disclosing without the consent
of all parties is a felony, unless the interception is a first offense
committed without any illegal purpose, and not for commercial gain,
or the communication is the radio portion of a cellular conversation.
Such first offenses and the interception of cellular communications
are misdemeanors. State v. News-Press Pub. Co., 338 So. 2d 1313 (1976),
State v. Tsavaris, 394 So. 2d 418 (1981).?
You can go there and click on your state to see the general laws
applicable to your users. If you want to copy them and distribute
them to your customers, that might be helpful for them, but they may
also need to consult attorneys.
Also, to find out whether your state, or the customer?s, has a specific
law addressing hidden cameras, go to the RCFP ?Tape Recording Laws at a
24 states do have specific hidden camera laws. Also, some states
have laws REQUIRING a notice or posting that there is surveillance
equipment. Once a sign is posted that surveillance is going on, you
could say that people talking near the sign are ?consenting? to that
Because Video Security Cameras are often referred to as ?Spy Cams? ,
and ?Nanny-Cams,? it is obvious that they are frequently used
without the knowledge of those who are being observed, which could
be illegal because there is no consent. I have found disclaimers
on websites SELLING the cameras, such as the following:
?While these cameras could be used to observe someone's activity, we
do not advocate or condone the improper use of these cctv cameras for
spying or monitoring of individuals without their consent. Be sure to
check and obey all local, state, and federal laws when using any video
or audio surveillance equipment, and always get their written consent
before you monitor anyone else's activity.?
However, when I asked the Director of the Center for Social and Legal
Research whether such a disclaimer would suffice to protect you, she
said, ?Not necessarily. Not if those who bought the cameras bought
them for an illegal purpose.?
For your customers wanting to use the cameras to watch their
nannies, there is an article in the UCLA Journal of Law and
Technology, titled ?Nanny-cams and Privacy.? Jessica Saan writes:
"States vary on this particular issue, but most agree that a
videotaping your nanny without her knowledge is perfectly legal so
long as there is no sound. Audiotaping without the nanny's consent
is an issue upon which the states are split."
Some experts recommend telling the nanny she will be monitored,
and getting her consent in writing from the start. This protects
the parents from prosecution, and helps prevent any abuse of the
child. After all, they say the object is to prevent the child from
being hurt, not to catch someone in the act of abusing.
If you want to find Saan?s article, to copy for your customers
(it?s short), you can find it at:
To find a lawyer to help with your questions, try the Martindale
Hubbell Lawyer Locator, at:
Here?s one that I found, searching under ?electronics industry?
that seems to specialize in just what you are looking for:
"Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P., Electronics, 865 South Figueroa Street
29th Floor, Los Angeles, California, 90017-2571, (Los Angeles Co.)
Group Profile: Tech-Wise Legal Representation. Fulbright & Jaworski
offers comprehensive legal services to companies that manufacture,
distribute or use electronic products worldwide. We work with
household names and startup companies in litigat...
They also have offices in Washington, DC, New York and Texas.
There are some 300 law firms that specialize in privacy law.
Two that have been mentioned to me are:
Oldaker, Biden & Belair LLP
818 Connecticut Avenue, N.W. Suite 1100
Washington, District of Columbia
Wilmer Cutler Pickering LLP
2445 M Street, N.W., Washington, District Of Columbia 20037-1420
Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering also has offices in Maryland and New York.
Here are a few other useful links I found:
California Office of Privacy Protection
Links to legal resources:
Google search strategy:
audio recording + legal issues
audio recording + privacy rights
audio recording + privacy law
legal + privacy rights
security cameras + vendors
hidden camera + illegal
I hope this answer helps. If there is anything unclear, please don?t
hesitate to hit the ?Clarify Answer? button before you rate my work.
Good luck with your business!
Google Answers Researcher