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Audio Surveillance Equipment Laws

Audio surveillance equipment such as surveillance microphones are useful tools to add to your CCTV camera systems, however federal, state, and local laws must be considered before implementing such systems.  Microphones allow operators of surveillance systems to not only see what is going on at their home or business, but also allow you to hear what is going on. 

Having audio surveillance is a big step into making your business safe, productive, and secure. You will be able to hear what is being said and you can ensure that employees are safe.

Using audio surveillance microphones should be planned carefully and it is very important that you ensure you understand the laws of your state, city and county before installing audio devices. Here are just a few reasons why:

  • If you record a private conversation, you are in danger of being accused of not only eavesdropping on the conversation, but wiretapping as well. This is allowed in some states but only if one of the parties is consenting (think of police wires). In many states though, you can be legally charged with eavesdropping, and that is not something you want when all you did was put a microphone on a camera.
  • You need to be careful of where you do both your audio and video recording because there are some locations that are completely off-limits. These are areas like bathrooms, bedrooms, dressing rooms and more. It can be hard to know where exactly you can and cannot set up audio surveillance and video surveillance. However, if there is a place where people would not want to be filmed, with the bathroom as the best example, then you cannot record them through audio or video surveillance.
  • Some states will allow covert video surveillance but not audio surveillance, so if you have a camera with a built-in microphone, you need to make sure you either have it turned off, or you buy one without it. There are several legal ramifications to this and you are best to simply avoid the audio surveillance in general if your state does not allow it.

This is not to scare you away from using audio surveillance, because as we have stated it is a very good tool in the fight to keep people safe, and keep your business or home secure. There are many ways that you can ensure you are able to avoid the legal ramifications of audio taping your employees.  You may inform them to the fact that they are both video recorded and recorded through audio surveillance when they are hired, through a contract they sign.

Most states will not allow any sort of ‘covert’ audio in public workplaces, public areas or public stores, however there are ways to get around this and that is through signage. When you have a sign up that states not only that the area is under video surveillance but also that audio surveillance is beintg used, then you are alerting people that they are being recorded through audio and if they choose to stay where they are being recorded, then they are agreeing to the fact their voice is being recorded.  Many employers are now including audio recording information in employee handbooks, which are all signed and dated, while retail stores will post signs to show customers they are being audio recorded.

Short Circuited highly recommends that you research the local and state laws, federal laws related to audio surveillance before implementing such systems.  At the time of this writing, audio surveillance recording falls under federal wire tapping laws. You should consult your attorney to make sure that what you are doing is in compliance before implementing any audio surveillance equipment.

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