Is a nanny cam legal in California?

Q We have a few concealed cameras placed in our home so we can keep track of what is happening while away. This is in part because our 6-year-old has different baby-sitters. Is there anything illegal about the cameras?

— B.K., Rancho Palos Verdes

A It is legal to have a video-only recording of activities inside your home. You are not required to let anyone know, nor does it matter if the camera is hidden. But that video must be utilized for a reasonable purpose. It cannot be an overt invasion of someone’s privacy. For example, we are all entitled to a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as when we are taking a shower.

Under California law, it is potentially illegal if such a camera also records audio. It is not lawful to record an oral communication through use of a hidden camera or device if a person has not consented to it.

Q Is there no invasion of our privacy posed by all these video cameras outside on buildings?

— C.D., El Segundo

A If you are out in public, such as walking on a sidewalk, you are pretty much fair game. Further, the video cameras do not physically intrude into your sphere of privacy. Thus, making a claim for invasion of privacy because of an outdoor video camera, while you are out in public, would be quite challenging.

It is a different situation, for examples, if you are in a bathroom facility, inside a hotel room or in a changing room at a clothing store. The nature of your activity, and your location, are factors to evaluate if you believe your right of privacy has been wrongly invaded.

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