Tech

Why Don’t Security Cameras Record Sound?

Though it is possible to purchase wireless security cameras with on-board audio capabilities, it’s more common to find cameras without audio. There is a reason for this: state privacy laws. States view recording video and audio differently. Needless to say,people are a lot more restricted where audio is concerned.

The issue of recording audio boils down to state consent laws. Those laws will be discussed in a moment. In the meantime, it never hurts to learn what your state says about video and audio recording before you buy new wireless video cameras.

Legal Video Surveillance

Vivint Smart Home is a nationwide company that sells state-of-the-art home automation and security equipment. They also offer remote monitoring. They say the vast majority of security systems they sell are purchased by residential homeowners. Those homeowners have the legal right to surveil their properties with video cameras.

All fifty states have legalized video surveillance in the home. In fact, video surveillance is allowed in all sorts of places where no expectation of privacy exists. That’s why businesses can surveil their properties as well. Where there is an expectation of privacy though, like public restrooms, video surveillance is not allowed.

In your home, you can have as many video cameras as you want. You can view your video feeds live, record the data and watch it later, or do any combination of the two. Recording and storing video is perfectly legal in your own home. However, audio is a different story.

It is All Private

Laws in all fifty states dictate that audio information is always private. That means you need to be extremely careful about recording conversations – even when such conversations are captured by a video camera. There are twelve states that require all parties to consent before audio can be recorded. These are:

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • Pennsylvania

The remaining thirty-eight states require consent of at least one party. In those states, it istechnically possible to record audio and video using the same device as long as there are at least two parties involved and one has given consent. However, that is tricky where you are trying to prevent something like home burglary.

You’re Not Home

Burglars rarely hit occupied homes. They look for vacant properties. Therefore, consider two burglars working side-by-side. They hit your home while you are at work. Neither consent to having their conversations recorded. You are the other party, but you are not home. Therefore, your consent would probably not hold up in a court of law.

It boils down to this: state law dictates whether audio surveillance can be recorded and stored. Video camera manufacturers tend to err on the side of caution. Because recording audio is dicey, some manufacturers don’t even bother equipping their cameras with audio recording capabilities. But there are some exceptions to the rule.

When manufacturers do decide to include audio recording, they also include a software or hardware switch that allows you to disable audio recording if is not allowed in your state. If it is allowed and the consent requirements are met, you can leave the audio engaged.

Follow the Law

The legal differences between recording video and audio do not make sense to a lot of people. Nonetheless, the law is the law. Video cameras equipped with audio recording capabilities need to be used with caution. If there is ever any doubt, check the laws in your state. They outline what you can and cannot do with video cameras and audio recording equipment. If you cannot legally record audio, don’t. It is as simple as that.

September 2022
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