Hidden cameras can be hidden virtually everywhere and secretly record the actions of unsuspecting parties. They can capture co-workers slacking off, perverts soliciting prostitutes, drug addicts purchasing from dealers, criminals breaking the law, or a cheating spouse, well, cheating. Perhaps the most popular use of a hidden camera is to keep a watchful eye on your babysitter. Many safety conscious parents secretly tape caretakers, sometimes with horrifying results.
You may even know somebody who uses a nanny cam in his or her own home. It is certainly not unrealistic to assume that most concerned parents have at least thought about installing a nanny cam. But when it comes to the safety of your child there is very fine line between appropriate levels of concern and ethically ambiguous conduct. Hidden cameras do not constitute an illegal invasion of privacy in so far as that there is no corresponding audio recording. That being said, there is still no question that hidden cameras raise a slew of ethical questions. It is completely up to the parent whether or not to disclose the installation of a hidden camera. After all, the parent is leaving their beloved child in the care of another. But the parents should avoid placing cameras in the bathroom or in the bedroom, if the nanny is live-in. These actions do constitute a breach of reasonable privacy.
Although it may not be technically illegal to secretly tape your nanny, Harold J. Krent, dean of The Kent College of Law at the Illinois Institute of Technology and an expert on personal privacy, questions it for other reasons. “It strikes me as unethical,” he said. “I would suggest that people put the shoe on the other foot. What if a hidden camera were focused on you at work? What would your reaction be if your boss decided to record phone conversations or monitor e-mail? Wouldn’t you want to know about it ahead of time?”
What Harold J. Krent may not know is that Americans do not have a right to total privacy in their lives. Chances are, you are caught on tape everyday, whether it be at your local grocery store, bank, or even your job. Hidden cameras are a large part of our every day lives, it is a reality everybody must come to terms with. Why shouldn’t parents optimize the same technology used by stores, businesses, city planners, and state? You are leaving your child alone with a stranger. So what if your babysitter has a dozen amazing references. How can you be totally sure of anything you don’t see with your own eyes?
But some would suggest a compromise. The installation of a nanny cam can be helpful when interviewing prospective babysitters. Being upfront about the installation of a nanny cam could help you choose the right caretaker during the hiring process. Ask the babysitter is he or she is comfortable working under surveillance. If you choose to disclose the fact that you will be operating a nanny cam chances are the right babysitter won’t mind. You are probably looking for the perfect nanny for a long term position anyway, so if you choose to be candid about your home surveillance system it can help set the tone for a honest and trusting relationship.