We live in an age where video technology is becoming universal. In fact, it’s now routine practice to use cameras to help keep ourselves and loved ones safe. At the same time, we all have a right to privacy in certain locations that must be protected. This limits the degree to which we can be the subject of surveillance without our consent. The use of “nanny cams” must balance these two competing interests, and the legality of them comes down to the nature of their use.
Now, a nanny cam refers to any type of video surveillance marketed towards parents to allow them to monitor a babysitter or other caregiver’s interactions with their children. These devices are becoming increasingly popular, affordable, and easier to hide. But, there are legal considerations that must be considered when using these monitors.
For example, if you are using them illegally, the footage you capture could not be used as evidence in a case against an abusive caregiver. Further, depending on the nature of your camera use, you may also be charged with a crime, which could lead to fines and even prison.
Video Voyeurism is Illegal
Note that Florida law prohibits what is known as “video voyeurism.” This involves using a camera (still or video) to record or transmit video or images of someone in a place where they have a “reasonable expectation of privacy.” These are locations where a person believes they could undress without being concerned that someone may be watching.
Now, this law applies even in cases where you believe your camera use is necessary to protect your children. In other words, it’s in place to do more than just prevent the type of spying mentioned above. The question always comes down to whether the person being watched or recorded had an expectation of privacy that was violated.
The statute specifically includes several spaces where you may not install a camera. These include a bathroom, changing room, fitting room, or tanning booth. Violating this law is considered a third-degree felony. This can result in a prison term of up to five years and a $5,000 fine.
Voice Recordings Require Consent
Keep in mind that Florida law limits more than just surveillance camera use. It’s also illegal to record someone’s voice with their permission, unless the recording is made in a public place where the person would not have an expectation of privacy. For this reason, many nanny cams on the market today do not record audio.
Violation of this statute is also considered a third-degree felony, which could result in a prison term of up to five years and a $5,000 fine. Note that the person you recorded could also sue you in civil court. The law allows them to recover $1000 in damages, plus attorney’s fees.
If your actions were particularly egregious, they may also receive punitive damages. Punitive damages are meant to punish a wrongdoer and can get quite large. For these reasons, it’s important that you ask your caregiver to sign a consent form if you are interested in recording sound.
Nanny Cam Footage as Evidence
Under Florida law, evidence obtained by illegal means cannot be used against a defendant in a criminal case. This means that if you were found in violation of the surveillance statute, any video or audio you obtained cannot be brought to court. The rule is not flexible, and your footage is not admissible even if it shows a caregiver doing something illegal.
Legal Use of Nanny Cams
It’s important to recognize that you are generally free to put up security cameras in your home for remote monitoring or recording. The key consideration is whether the subject being monitored or recorded had a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Now, there is also an exception to the video voyeurism statute if there is a written notice posted conspicuously on the premises stating that a surveillance system has been installed. If done properly, including making the camera clearly visible and not capturing sound, this would remove any expectation of privacy. But, keep in mind that you are still not permitted to place hidden cameras in certain places, such as a bathroom.
If you are concerned about whether your nanny cam system is legal, it’s always good practice to first ask for the consent of the caregiver. As part of this conversation, you should let him or her know what and when you will be monitoring or recording.