What Is a Hidden Camera?

What Is a Hidden Camera?

A hidden camera is any camera (still or video) that is hidden in a space and used to film people without their knowledge. Hidden cameras are also sometimes called spy cameras. The camera is either disguised as something else or is hidden away from sight so that it is not visible to the people being filmed.

Hidden cameras are popular in commercial settings (where business owners use them to capture the behavior of customers or employees) or even for in home surveillance. Popular disguises for hidden cameras include video cameras built into smoke detectors, clocks, ball caps, plants, or any household item that wouldn’t ordinarily contain a piece of spy equipment. There’s even a popular line of “babysitter monitors” that are basically just hidden cameras built into teddy bears or other children’s toys.

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Hidden cameras are either wired directly to a recording device or can transmit their signals over a wireless connection for maximum flexibility. Wired hidden cameras connect to a TV or DVR, and both allow live monitoring (where the person watching the video watches the feed as it happens) or recording for monitoring at a later time. Wireless hidden cameras can transmit a signal up to a few hundred feet away which makes live monitoring less obvious.

Is using a hidden camera legal?

What Is a Hidden Camera?

Most hidden camera recordings made in the United States are perfectly legal even without the consent of the people being monitored. Legal precedent exists that can throw a wrench into the legality of hidden camera monitoring, with most of these legal decisions falling under the category of “Invasion of Privacy”. In just a few cases, people who have “expected privacy” have made a legal complaint against an unlawful hidden camera in areas where privacy is assumed, such as the bathroom, a locker room, a changing or dressing room, or even in the bedroom. Personal privacy in areas like this is troublesome for people who want to install hidden cameras, especially in areas like shopping malls where bathrooms are often used to cover-up crimes such as theft.

The laws that deal with hidden video recording and privacy issues allow hidden camera recording and even live monitoring of that video activity under a wide range of circumstances, even without notification of any of the people involved. Your best bet is to talk to local police officials before you decide to install a hidden camera — you may be surprised at the extent to which you are legally allowed to tape covertly. Video surveillance and monitoring can be a big part of home or commercial security, but you want to make sure you are acting within the boundaries of the law.

There are thirteen American states that have laws on the books that specifically prohibit the “unauthorized” installation or use of cameras in places with expected privacy.

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • New Hampshire
  • South Dakota
  • Utah

In any one of these states, installing or using any hidden camera (or even a camera that is not hidden) for photographing, recording, observing, or eavesdropping people’s actions or words in a “private” setting without permission of the people being observed is a crime punishable by law. What are these “private” settings? That definition changes by state, so if you’re in one of these thirteen state and you want to install hidden camera surveillance, make sure you know the law. The use of hidden cameras in private settings in these states violates people’s 4th amendment right to privacy and is considered a felony offense, in some cases punishable by thousands of dollars in fines and prison sentences of up to 2 years.

In a recent example of legal action on the topic of hidden cameras, in July of 2005 the US Court of Appeals for Washington, DC found in a 2-1 decision that Anheuser-Busch committed “an unfair labor practice” when it installed hidden cameras in the 90s without conferring with the worker’s union. Under federal labor laws, in some areas a labor union must be contacted before a company installs a hidden camera surveillance system. Anheuser-Busch fired five workers after their hidden camera system recorded some workers smoking marijuana in a break area at a St. Louis factory. In this instance, the “break area” is not considered a part of the factory with expected privacy, but the federal government still found in favor of worker’s rights, highlighting how important it can be to install a hidden camera within the boundaries of the law.

Where can you buy a hidden camera?

Because of the proliferation of home and small business security systems, hidden cameras are available all over the place. Your home security provider, such as ADT or Brinks, has hidden camera systems for sale ranging from “nanny cams” up to complex home or small office security systems that capture every angle of the space you want to monitor.

Another option is to purchase your hidden camera online. Sites like SpyAssociates.com exist to supply hidden camera and other monitoring supplies directly to the people who need them. There’s so much variety in the world of hidden cameras, and spyassociates.com has cameras hidden in everything from car keys and smoke detectors to clock radios, commercial “Exit” signs, fans, and cigarette lighters.

Yes, hidden camera technology can be expensive. Wireless hidden cameras hidden in everyday objects will run you well upwards of $100 and the price varies greatly depending on the item your camera is built into, whether or not the device is wireless or wired, if you want black and white or color video or just audio, or any number of other customizable options. My favorite item from spyassociates.com is this tiny wireless color video camera built into the bed of a screw — you can attach this screw anywhere or leave it lying around on the table to capture whatever is going on when you’re not looking. You can mount the screw anywhere you’d normally find it, only this one takes color video recordings and sends it via a wireless connection to any monitoring system you want.

Get a Hidden Camera of Your Own Now

Hidden cameras may be controversial, but in most instances they are completely legal when used in the right circumstances. They are easy to find for purchase, and websites like spyassociates.com give you a wide range of hidden camera products so that your home or office security setup is ideal. If you want to know what’s going on in your home or business when you’re away, a hidden camera monitoring its surroundings is the best way to do so within the framework of existing law.

One of our favorite brands to look for when shopping for a hidden camera is SecureShot.

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