Commercial Property Security: 3 Places You Should Never Install Cameras
When cameras are installed on commercial or public property and used effectively (regularly monitored, made obvious and properly maintained), crime rates often decrease. However, there are some places you should never put surveillance cameras, despite the potential benefit — let’s take a look.
Locker and Changing Rooms
The logic of cameras in locker and changing rooms makes sense: Individuals are vulnerable in these areas and collected footage could be useful in apprehending suspects or tracking down stolen goods. The problem? It’s illegal in most states. California’s Penal Code 647 prohibits using cameras to record footage in changing rooms. And while some states permit the installation of cameras provided obvious warnings are in place, that doesn’t solve all problems. A school in Tennessee is facing a $4 million lawsuit after images of students dressing and undressing in locker rooms were accessed via the internet from outside the school. The solution is simple: Never use a video monitoring service in locker or changing rooms to avoid the potential fallout.
Bathrooms are another potential area of concern, but just like locker rooms come with an expectation of privacy. In states like New York and Rhode Island, laws prohibit the installation of cameras in any restroom or bathroom to help protect patrons’ privacy, even if commercial security suffers as a result. It’s not a good idea to challenge these laws — retail giant Walmart found itself in trouble after loss-prevention employees installed a hidden camera in a unisex washroom used by both staff and customers. Making matters worse, several employees who complained about the camera were terminated after complaining about the camera, while public users were completely unaware of its existence. While the aim of the camera was to catch would-be shoplifters, the damage to business reputation outweighs any potential benefit.
Also a bad idea? Dressing rooms. Loss prevention is often cited here as well — what if shoplifters take small items into the change rooms and hide them in their clothing, or use the changing rooms to “try on” new outfits and then flee the store with stolen clothing? Thirteen states completely prohibit the use of cameras in dressing rooms, while the other 37 states typically require some type of posted notification along with assurances that recorded data is only being used for loss prevention purposes.
Best bet? Never install security cameras in dressing rooms, and regularly check rooms for any non-approved installations. Or, you could end up like now-closing retail store Sears, hit by a lawsuit after one maintenance employee installed hidden cameras and recorded women and children changing.
Audio Bonus: Don’t Record Conversations You’re Not a Part Of
The laws around recording conversations are interesting. Why? Because it’s legal to record any conversation where you’re an active participant, even if you don’t inform the other participant(s). However, if you’re just listening in from another room or over the phone, you’re acting outside the law. This led to trouble for a Houston-area hospital. One of its doctors is accused of recording conversations between nurses and patients without their knowledge for a period of eight years. While there’s potential insight gained from “listening in,” the rule here is simple: If you’re not talking, don’t hit record and you’ll steer clear of legal trouble.
Here’s the bottom line for camera system and video monitoring service best practices: Never install them in locker rooms, restrooms or dressing rooms, and make sure you’re actively checking these areas for unapproved cameras installed by customers or employees, since you’re responsible for what happens on your property. In addition, steer clear of audio recordings where you’re not an active participant.
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