Due to its rapid growth, civilians are finally getting access to high-quality surveillance technology previously unavailable to them. This can be a double-edged sword, however, so understanding the laws surrounding them is a necessity to stay safe and out of trouble. Surveillance especially can be a confusing subject that needs to be demystified as it’s rapidly becoming a part of our everyday lives making it important for all Americans to understand their rights.
It is easy to see why this is a controversial subject, but there are many great uses for the technology. Cameras can be a great asset in case anything goes down in your home or business, the mere knowledge of them is enough to prevent theft in many cases. Recording a customer and employees conversation can help maximize customer service practices.
An Emerging form of Surveillance: Mobile Phone Tracking Software and Bugs
Video and audio recording are well known, but another type of surveillance is rising rapidly. GPS tracking bugs or cell phone GPS tracking software to find the location of people or objects. Originally entering the civilian market for use inside of work vehicles to make sure they were only going where they were supposed to. Today almost every American has a phone that is capable of giving off your precise location.
This technology has many uses: parents can install cell phone GPS software to keep track of their children’s location or can be used by police to hunt down suspects. The laws on this type of surveillance vary vastly even on a law enforcement level, few agree on the necessity of a warrant when police want to know where you are. For consumer use, as long as you’re keeping track of your own children or possessions you can assume to be within the law.
The Expectation of Privacy
So what are the regulations you need to know before setting up a surveillance system? Well, they can vary from state to state, but they all boil down to an expectation of privacy. Depending on where you are you have a level of privacy. In public, you can barely expect any privacy, but in certain areas you can expect a lot. People also have other rights that get weighed against expected privacy. For example, a store owner has a right to know if their employees or customers are stealing, and a homeowner has a right to know who is in their house.
So when using mobile phone tracking software or tracking devices to trace someone’s whereabouts, or using any other type of surveillance technology, make sure to look up your local laws and evaluate if the expectation of privacy is going to trump your rights. By using obvious surveillance equipment and informing the people being filmed you can mitigate the risk of breaching someone’s right to privacy, though places like bathrooms and changing rooms are going to almost always be off limits.
Reporting to the Police
If you are going to take on the responsibility of surveillance technology, you must be aware of the proper procedure to take when you pick up on something illegal. It is important to understand it is almost never ok to take the law into your own hands. If you get evidence of illegal activities the best course of action is to turn it into your local police and allow them to take care of it.
Doing things like making the evidence public can end up causing more harm than good during the investigation. Every American is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, and even when caught on video there are many variables that may still be unknown.
Understanding State Laws
Knowing your local laws is something that can’t be stressed enough, each state has very different ideas on what is a reasonable expectation of privacy. For example in Arkansas only one person in a conversation has to consent to recording, in most states all participants must consent.
Video surveillance is equally tricky; California designates certain rooms as non-filmable without consent, while others like Colorado are more ambiguous and base it solely on expectation of privacy. Once you’re armed with the knowledge of what’s legal and what’s not, the benefits of surveillance open up.