Rosenbaum & Rosenbaum, P.C. | September 29, 2020 | New York Laws
As digital technology has advanced rapidly over the last several decades, hidden cameras have moved from the realm of spy novels and science fiction to the homes and offices of everyday Americans. Many individuals use hidden cameras inside their houses as a form of security against intruders while others have turned to cameras near their front doors as a way to prevent people from stealing packages.
Another type of hidden camera that has become increasingly popular is the nanny cam. Nanny cameras are cameras that come in all shapes and sizes (though usually small and inconspicuous) and are used by working parents to keep tabs on their children while they are at work.
The goal of installing and using nanny cameras is simple, keeping children safe from physical assault or sexual abuse. Nanny cams are relatively inexpensive and easy to use, with many of the latest models even offering live-streaming so parents can watch their children in real-time.
But before you run off and buy the latest nanny camera there are several things to consider. Are hidden nanny cams legal in New York? Where can you put them? And can you record both video and audio?
Nanny Cams are Legal in New York
The short answer to the question of whether nanny cams are legal or not in New York is yes. In fact, in all 50 states and Washington D.C., you can legally install and use nanny cams to make sure your children are safe while you are away.
And while this may make you want to get your hands on the latest nanny cam, there are still several things to consider.
Where Can You Install a Nanny Cam?
Just because you can use a nanny cam in your home does not mean it is legal or advisable to put one anywhere you want. A number of states have laws on the books that strictly prohibit the placement of hidden cameras in areas where people have a reasonable expectation of privacy. This typically includes bathrooms or bedrooms where a live-in nanny might stay.
In 2019, a New York woman noticed a strange glare on what looked like an iPhone charger that was plugged in the wall of the bathroom where she regularly changed and showered. The “charger” turned out to be a hidden camera.
The nanny has since quit her job and filed suit against the family that used the camera. If you do plan to use a nanny camera, make sure you place it in common areas so you can’t be accused of any wrong-doing.
Can You Record Both Audio and Video?
The state of New York is a one-party state meaning that only one party (you) needs to know about the camera in order to use it. While it is legal to use the camera without informing your nanny, you may want to consider what a hidden camera would do to your working relationship should your nanny find it.
In some states, it is permissible to video someone without their consent, but if audio is included, both parties need to be aware of and consent to the surveillance. These two-party states include California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington.
What About Nursing Homes?
One final way people often use (or at least want to use) nanny cameras is to make sure their aging parents are safe and well-cared for at their nursing homes. While the state of New York doesn’t have laws on the books allowing or disallowing such use, many nursing homes have their own regulations that do not permit the installation and use of hidden cameras.
If you do install a hidden camera in a nursing home you could face penalties, legal action, and any evidence obtained might be deemed inadmissible.
What Happens if Someone Improperly Uses a Nanny Cam?
If you have been accused of improperly using a nanny cam, or someone has used one to record you in an improper manner, you might want to consult a lawyer to determine your next best steps. Though you can legally install a nanny camera in your home to make sure your children are safe, improper use could include:
- Putting a hidden camera in a place meant to be private
- Using the footage to blackmail someone
- Publicly broadcasting private footage that could harm the reputation of someone
Anyone interested in using nanny cams in their home will need to weigh the costs and benefits for themselves. While they might help protect children in some cases, it is important to use nanny cameras properly to avoid painful litigation and other legal consequences later on.