Look at this! Legal issues arise with home security cameras.

But with the skyrocketing crime, the percentage is likely to increase. And a 2021 survey by the National Association of Home Builders indicated that 70% of potential home buyers want security cameras, with 27% calling them a “must have” feature.

When the concept was first patented by Marie van Brittan Brown and her husband, inventors from Queens, New York, in the 1960s, home video technology was far too cumbersome and expensive for the average homeowner.

Today, cameras cost between $100 and $400, depending on features. They can shoot high-resolution video footage and carry microphones capable of picking up conversations from 20 feet away. Some are completely wireless and powered by internal batteries or even solar cells, while using Wi-Fi to connect to a home’s broadband system. Videos can be viewed in real time via smartphone connection or automatically stored in the Internet cloud for later viewing. This type of camera, offered by big companies like SimpliSafe, Vivint, and Ring, is something owners can set up easily.

But when people start pointing cameras and microphones at each other, certain problems arise. For example, what if your neighbor complains that your camera is invading their privacy? What if the microphone recorded people’s private conversations?

The law has little to say on these issues, according to Matthew Guarigliapolitical analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an online civil liberties group.

“There’s not a lot of protection for people from home surveillance devices,” Guariglia said.

If your camera is pointed at a part of your neighbor’s property that is in plain sight – like the driveway, porch, or even the backyard – these are areas where the neighbor has no reasonable expectation. of privacy. And people are watching. According to a survey published by Vivint in May, almost 25% of people with outdoor cameras use them to keep an eye on their neighbors.

And the neighbors probably can’t do anything about it.

With one major exception: cameras that can see inside someone’s house. In a 2014 decisionthe Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that a homeowner could be sued for installing a camera capable of looking through the neighbor’s windows.

And be even more careful when recording vocals. Under Massachusetts law, you cannot record someone’s voice without their permission. It’s okay to take a few sentences inadvertently, but using your camera to deliberately eavesdrop could get you in trouble.

Another thing: what happens to all that recorded video and audio? Most of these systems store it online, where you can view it from any internet-connected device. This makes home video systems a boon to law enforcement agencies, who routinely ask homeowners for captured footage of possible crimes.

A lot of people agree with that. A Consumer Reports 2021 survey reported that 10% of video doorbell users provided footage to police upon request.

Millions of people who own Ring cameras use Amazon’s social network Neighbors to share footage with friends – and with law enforcement. When a crime is committed, police can log into Neighbors and request video footage from all nearby Ring users. Compliance is entirely voluntary, most of the time.

But Ring will also provide video recordings without the user’s permission if the police come with a search warrant. Additionally, Amazon said that in the first half of 2022, he gave Ring videos to the police 11 times without a warrant or user authorization. The company said these were extraordinary cases “involving life-threatening conditions such as kidnapping or attempted murder”.

Even more worrying is the possibility that hackers could steal your stored videos or that security company employees who are not allowed to see them watch them. This actually happened at Ring several years agoleading the company to tighten its access policies.

If the prospect dismays you, Ring offers the option to automatically encrypt all your videos so that only you can unlock them. Or you can opt for a security camera that allows you to store all the videos on a small hard drive, instead of keeping them online.

Of course, a local disk can be lost or damaged, or a savvy thief can cover their tracks by stealing it, which just goes to show that perfect security doesn’t exist.


Hiawatha Bray can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @GlobeTechLab.

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