Legal Position when observing with Spy Cams

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Common legal decision about security surveillance

When observing your property for security reasons, like installing and operating surveillance cameras at home, in entrances, offices or shopping areas, the legal position is determined in many countries by protection of each observed individual as well as by regional telecommunication laws. Last one especially refers to wireless security systems and wireless communication equipment. Those aren't allowed to interfere with public telecommunications or radio engineering.

Special security areas like train stations, airport, etc., also require additional permissions to operate wireless surveillance electronics. Cable connected security devices require less permissions by most local telecommunication laws. Obvious and visible surveillance systems, that are undoubtedly installed for safety and protection matters, are legal, if warning signs inform the audience about the ongoing area surveillance, and if that observation does not violate people's privacy like in bathrooms, toilets or changing cubicles. Spying in those areas on people's privacy, of course, is illegal.

When does observation become a criminal act?

Legal decision: Spy-cams in bathrooms, toilets or changing cubicles are illegal

You make yourself liable to prosecution in any case when you operate a mini security camera to violate other peoples privacy especially if you spy on peoples private life, that's guaranteed in many western countries by jurisdiction. Even an obvious installation of a fake surveillance camera, that is positioned towards your unpleasant neighbour and which only pretends to observe his private life, is illegal by legal decision of several countries and can be fined or sentenced with prison. Already this misused operation of a security camera dummy means an illegal interference with private rights - at least in some countries.

Legal position about security cameras

Today there are surveillance cameras everywhere: security surveillance in the streets to monitor traffic flow, in shopping malls and on company areas to secure property and goods. The density of cameras varies from country to country. In Europe for example, the highest amount of safety cameras per inhabitants can be found in Great Britain. In Germany the law about surveillance is very tight and data protection ranges quite high. Many people agree with the good intentions of protective precautions of safety installations. Although the federal constitutional court of Germany equate the right of informal self-determination with basic rights, most citizens don't care to much about being monitored several times a day. It doesn't happen very often that there is a law case about security cameras after someone got observed and recorded by surveillance technology, as long as the operating security equipment is unequivocal installed for safety reasons. This means e.g. in daily life, that the angle of a surveillance camera can observe door and entrance of your garage, but it would not be correct, if you monitor your neighbours garage, too - without his permission.

Jurisdiction about operating Surveillance Technology

Summary of legal positions when installing and operating security cameras

  • do not violate the observed peoples privacy
  • show responsibility and don't spy on peoples private life
  • you should inform your customers about area-wide security surveillance
  • the right to observe must undoubtedly serve safety and protection
  • wireless devices may be subject to regional telecommunication laws

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Jurisdiction about operating surveillance technology and legal position of observing with spy cams