Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: Audio recording with security cameras. ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Audio recording with security cameras.
Category: Relationships and Society > Law
Asked by: drsam2007-ga
List Price: $100.00
Posted: 02 Jun 2004 18:46 PDT
Expires: 02 Jul 2004 18:46 PDT
Question ID: 355638
Audio recording with security cameras.

A lot of security camera systems have the capability to recording Video 
as well as audio. 
It seems the law is not well defined as to when it is legal to record audio. 
There are different circumstances when audio might be recorded.  
I am interested in the three following Examples with regard to how and 
when it is legal.

#1 A business has a security system which can record audio.
#2 A home owner has a system which can record audio and some security systems
can record audio from the babies room. 
#3 As a vendor selling Security cameras with built in microphones.

My questions are.
#1 Are these issues covered by state law or Federal law and which
state law do I have to comply with, the state I am selling from or to?
#2 What does a business have to do to legally record their security systems 
#3 What does the home owner have to do to comply with the law to record audio
 in their home.  

Here is one I am very interested in 
#4 If I am selling a security camera that has the capability to record audio,
what do I have to do to legally sell this device.?

#5 Are there certain devices which are strictly illegal, or do they require a
different disclaimer 
Example: Miniature battery operated cameras with audio the size of a button.

Does it matter to whom I sell these cameras with built in microphones.?

EXAMPLE: I have sold these cameras to Fish & Wild Life, US Customs,
Undercover agents,
privet investigators, Business owners, Home owners, husbands, Wife's and 
collage kids.

Request for Question Clarification by cath-ga on 11 Jun 2004 14:00 PDT
Hi drsam,

I am researching your questions, and would like to clarify one thing.
Are you concerned with these legal issues primariy as a VENDOR of
video-audio cameras? Or are you also concerned about the legal
questions for businesses,
parents, spouses, etc?

My gut feeling is that as the vendor, you are not legally responsible for
the way the buyer uses the camera. It is the buyer's responsibiity
to use it in a legal manner. If that is the case, do you really need
the info on legal uses? Or are you looking for information to provide
for your customers?  Thanks for any direction you can give me. cath-ga

Clarification of Question by drsam2007-ga on 11 Jun 2004 16:11 PDT
I am not looking for ALL legal uses. My Primary concern is as a
vendor.  Secondly for my customers who are always asking what do they
have to do to comply with the law to record audio.  Typical my
customers are, Business who want to record audio in a business
atmosphere.  And home owners who want to record audio typically from
the babies room where they may have a nanny.  Do sings have to be
posted?,  or  is it always illegal to record audio?

I know there were some actions taken against companies selling "Spy
equipment" because these device could covertly record audio.  The
action was against a popular spy store vendor I think it was country
wide but I know they had their stores in Florida evolved in the
Subject: Re: Audio recording with security cameras.
Answered By: cath-ga on 15 Jun 2004 08:34 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Dear drsam,

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, 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 
violation of
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 
public utilities.

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  
according to:

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press


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 
Glance? page:

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 
(Main Office)

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
drsam2007-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
Well it think the researcher is right, it is a very difficult question
to answer and I am not sure if more could have been done.  I just wish
more could have been done.

Subject: Re: Audio recording with security cameras.
From: neilzero-ga on 02 Jun 2004 19:04 PDT
I suspect most of your questions are grey areas in most states and
cities which have not yet been tested in the courts. If you do not get
a prompt response from a researcher, I suggest you divide your
questions into ten or twelve parts offering $5 to $20 for each part,
and cancel this question.   Neil

Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy