Todd Morris, CEO of BrickHouse Security, hesitantly presses play and sits back down, bracing himself for the worst. As working parents, Todd and his wife had no choice but to entrust their then one-year-old son to a nanny, and now comes the moment of truth: playing back the nanny camera video. Will she be everything she said she says she was? Caring, helpful, playful? Or will she be like those horror stories you see on the news?
Thankfully, What the Morris’ found was a happy scene; the nanny was hugging and kissing their child, caring for him as if he were her own. But what if the scene hadn’t been so pleasant? Can a nanny caught in an incriminating predicament sue the parents for video taping her without her knowledge?
If a parent or family chooses to use a nanny camera, they are absolutely within their rights. A person is allowed to use a hidden camera within their own home, on the terms that what a guest does in this person’s home is considered the home owner’s business. That means that when you’re a guest in someone else’s home, the reasonable expectation of privacy is limited.
Since the main areas of the home, apart from bathrooms, are not considered private, the homeowners can record without a nanny’s consent. You can’t use a nanny camera where there is an expectation of privacy, such as the bathroom, and if a nanny happens to live with you, the bedroom. Dressing rooms, locker rooms, and tanning salons also qualify as private, and nowadays even lunch rooms or employee break rooms have been deemed private by some states and cannot be monitored by video surveillance. But remember, you don’t have an expectation of privacy in the public areas of a home that isn’t yours.
Unlike audio recording, you are not obligated to inform your nanny that you are video taping her. But keep in mind that alerting your nanny that you are recording them in your home can act as a deterrent and keep the nanny on her best behavior. Businesses are also allowed to monitor employees using a surveillance system, especially when used in a public space. A person or business owner is allowed to hide a surveillance camera, but always within the realm of decency.
It is federally illegal to record audio in your nanny camera. You can’t record sound, even if you want to. Audio recordings on video violate the federal wiretapping laws.
“A lot of people want audio, especially when it comes to watching their baby” said Gok Tezgor of BrickHouse Security. “It’s still illegal. There cannot be audio for any type of hidden camera.”
But nanny cameras aren’t just used to monitor the behaviors of nannies. “Its a multi-use device,” says Tezgor. “Around 80% of our customers are buying cameras called “nanny cameras” and re-purposing them for other uses. I see a lot of people who worry that their landlords are coming into their homes while they are at work. They think the landlords are sifting through their private things, so they’re using the nanny camera to bust them,” says Gok.
So keep the guidelines fresh in your mind if you’re planning on hiding a camera in your home or business; it will keep you from breaking the law in your attempts to enforce it.