Surveillance Cameras in Condos and Gated Communities - Right of Privacy

Posted by Michelle Johnson on 10/27/2016

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The installation of security cameras in condominiums and gated communities has become commonplace. Research indicates that the growth rate of North American security camera installations is projected to nearly double by the end of 2016, from 33 million security cameras installed in 2012 to 62 million. Security cameras offer property managers and residents a sense of security, and they are frequently used to deter vandalism, violent crimes, and theft. They also keep track of everyone that enters or leaves the property.

While it's important for condo owners and residents to feel safe, it's also important to consider each individual's right to privacy. Here are a few factors you should know about the right of privacy when using surveillance cameras.

What Is the Right of Privacy?

The right of privacy can be viewed as the right to act and speak freely without public investigation. This concept can be linked to the Fourth Amendment in the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights. While the exact verbiage that expresses sole protection is absent from the amendment, many have argued and interpreted the law to cover the concept of the right of privacy. However, different state laws or local laws may define the right of privacy in various manners. For example, the Massachusetts Privacy Act protects people from unreasonable privacy interference and restricts video surveillance with audio recording sans consent. The state also expects condo property managers to secure common ground areas, making it legal to use surveillance cameras. However, Massachusetts is only one out of 11 states that require consent for audio recording, as of 2016. Therefore, it's vital to check local laws to verify your equipment is legal.

Security Cameras vs. Right of Privacy

The installation of security cameras has become such a debated topic that some have resulted to demonstrations and have even taken legal action against security camera installations within their communities. While these situations may seem limited to public places, such as schools, hotel lobbies, or restaurants, they also are cause for concern within gated communities and condominiums because of opposition. You may experience resistance from residents who argue that security cameras violate their right to privacy. However, many residents are not always aware of what is legal versus what is not. That is why it is important to understand your rights and the resident's rights in regards to privacy, as well as to provide a source of education for residents.

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Privacy Laws Restrict Cameras to Common Areas

While it usually considered legal for property managers to install surveillance cameras in gated communities and condominiums, it's vital to understand and recognize demarcation points established by law. Privacy laws often limit surveillance cameras to common areas, such as the outside of a public bathroom, the mailroom, the corner of a building or a hallway. You also want to consider what data the surveillance camera can capture. For example, it is better to install security cameras at an angle rather than directly in front of a tenant's or owner's door so that you can avoid capturing the interior of a non-public area. Capturing the interior of a person's home without their knowledge can constitute a violation of his or her right to privacy and may be grounds for a lawsuit.

Final Thoughts

Security cameras help to improve security in gated communities and condominiums by acting as a deterrent to crime as well as a source for monitoring suspicious activity on the property. However, it is still necessary to pay attention to the laws and situations surrounding right of privacy. If you decide to install security cameras on your property, make sure you consult with an expert who is aware of local, federal and state laws surrounding video surveillance. They'll help you take the right legal steps as you install a surveillance system.