Audio Usage In Video Surveillance Statistics

By: Brian Rhodes, Published on Mar 28, 2018

Audio is more widely available and easier to use than ever, with many IP cameras building audio in and often making integration as simple as toggling a button.

But how widely is audio used? There still remain many legal and privacy concerns about audio recording.

150+ integrators explained to IPVM: "In the past year, what percentage of cameras did you record audio? Why that percentage?" 

Inside we break down the results and include color comments.

Audio Usage Very Rare

Only about 1 in every 20 cameras overall use audio according to integrators:

Moreover, more than half of integrators never record audio:

Inside we examine the top reasons integrators provided, sharing their detailed commentary and providing our analysis.

 Audio ************ ********* ** ***

*** ****, ***** ********* or **** ********** ** strictly ******** ** ** heavily ********** ** ** simply *******. ** *** illegal, ******** ***** **** 'dual *******' ** '***-*****' consent ******** ***** **** being ******** ******** **** of *** ****:

  • "*% [** ******* ****** audio] ** ** ***** recording ***** ******** * party *******. ** *** 2nd ***** *** **** recorded *** *** *** given ****** *******, ***** issues ***** ***** ***** I ***'* **** ** get ******** **."
  • "**'* ******* ** ** so ** *** ******** if *** ** *** have * *******."
  • "*%. **** ** ** installations *** ** *************, which ** * **** consent *****."
  • "** *** ***** ** is ******* *** *** to ****** ***** ******* prior ******."
  • "******** *** **** ****** laws ********* **** *** be ******** ** **** customers **** ****** **** from **."
  • "** *** **** *** enforcement ****, *** ********* our ***** **** *** allow **."
  • "***** ********* ** *** legal ** *****"
  • "**** ******* **** *********** make **** **********."
  • "***** ** *** ******* to ** ******** **** unless ******* ********** ** client *** ******* *** to ** ******."
  • "*%, ***** ********* ******* consent ** ******* ** Canada."

Discomfort *** ***** ***********

*******, **** **** *********, integrators ******* ****** **** recording ***** ** ******** due ** ***** ** executing ** ********, *** the ******* ******'* ********** of ********** *****:

  • "********* *** *** ***** interested ** ********* ***** and *** ***** ************* scare **** ** ****."
  • "*%. ******* ******* **** and ******* ******* ***** GDPR ***********."
  • "*%, * ** *** fully ********** *** *********."
  • "**** *** *** ******** to ******* *** ******** yet. **** *** *** prepared *** *** ******** involved ** ********* *****."
  • "* ***** *** **** regarding ***** ********* *** not ***** ********** ** everyone."
  • "** *******, ***** ********* is "**** ****", ** nobody ****** *****."
  • "***** ********* ** * niche *********** *** **** people *** ****** ** having ***** ******** ****** special *************"
  • "****. *** ****** **** is *** *********** ********* audio."
  • "** ********* *** ***** they **** *** ********** but **** ************ ***** me ** ******* *** audio."
  • "** ******* *** ********* skittish ***** ***** **********, and * ********** ** strongly ****** ***** ** a ****** **** ****** in ***** ** **** managers *** ****** *** stress ** ******* ***** employees **** ****."
  • "** **** ********* *** about ********* ***** *** typically **** *** **** down ** ***** ***** department."

Mixed ***** *** ***** *********

** *** **, *** laws ********** *** ************ to ****** ***** **** state ** ***** (*** **** *****), ******** **** ********** (ie:************* ** *******) ******** prohibit **.  ** *** majority ** ** ******, one ** *** *************** generally ******** *** ************ and ******* ** ** be ***** *** ***** recording:

  • ******-***** *******: ** ***** ** be ******, *** ******** party ******** ** *** recording **** *******. ** most *****, *** *** user *** **** *** surveillance ****** ** *** consenting *****, *** ********* can **** ***** ******* additional **********. ** *******, 40 ******/********* *** '****** party' *************, ******** *** matter ** ********** **. 'in ******' *** ******* or *** *** ************ could ** ***** ******* special ********* *** ******* qualify ********.
  • ****/***/***-***** *******: **** ******** **** or *** ******* ** a ********* ** ******* and ** ***** **** such ********* ** ****** place.  ******* ******** ******* is *********, **** ** willingness ** *****, ** essentially ******** ***** ********* by *** ** ***** surveillance, *** ****** ****** it ** * ****** eavesdropping ** ********* ******.

******, *** ********** *******, signage, *** *********** ****** for ********-***** ******* ***** complicate ******* ** ****, it ** *********** ***********.

****, ** ******** ** our ***** ************ *****, ********** *** ***** equipment ** *** ****** way *** **** ******* impact *** ************* ** recording. *** ********* ********** of ******* *********** ** the ***** **** *** optimized ** ******* ***** audio, *** **** ****** recorded ***** **** ******** with ***** ****** *********, even **** ******* ******* integrated ***** ***** ** integrated ***********.

******, **** ***** ********* below ********** ********** ********** in ********** *** **** and *** ********* *********.  For ****, ***** ********* is ****** *** **** trouble **** *******.

No ******** ****** *** *****

**** ** **** ***** for *****, ******** ****** is ****. ******* ******** noted **** **** ***** recording ***** ** '****' in ******-***** ******* *************, customers ****** ** *** ask *** ** *** are ******* ** *** extra *** **:

  • "*%. ** *** ***** a ***********. **** ****** NY **** ******** * party *******,******* ***** **** to ****** *****."
  • "**** *******. ** *** asks *** **. **'* not * ***** ***** because ** *** * one ****** ******* ***** as **** ** ***** are ***** ** ********** as ****, ***** ** no *****."
  • "*%, ** ******** *********** for ***** *********."
  • "*, **** ** * one ***** ******* ***** and **** ******* ***’* need **."
  • "****. *** ****** ** customer."
  • "***** ** *** ** important ** *** ****** base."
  • "**** **** *%. ******* did *** ******* *****."
  • "**** **** *%. **** customers *** *** ****** for **."

Audio **** ** ****** ********* ***** & ********* *****

*******, **** ********** *** common *** ***** *********, especially ** *** *********** interview ***** *** **** and ****** *****.  **** color ******** ***** ***** areas ** *** ********** where ***** ************ ** typically ****:

  • "* ***** ** ****** 1% ** *%. ***** recording ** * ***** requirement *** **** ****** are ****** ** ****** audio ******** ****** ******* circumstances **** ** ****** and ********* ************."
  • "*** **** ******** ** ours **** ******** **** audio ** **** ** PD ********. ** ** booking ***** **** ***** as **** ** ********* rooms."
  • "** *** ****** ****** police ***********. **** ****** likely ******* ** ***** concerns."
  • "***** ********* *** ******* our ****** ******** ********* ties ** *** ***********/*********** at ******** *********, ** it's *** **** ** a **** *****. "
  • "**** ** ********* ***** for *** ***********"
  • "***** ********* *** **** required ** *** ***-*********** installations ** *** ********* rooms."
  • "**** **** *% ** all ******* ********* ****** audio. **** **** *** installed *** ****** ******* interview *****."
  • "*** * ******/********* ******** application. ********* ** ******** do *** ****** *****."
  • "** **** ***** ** have ** ******** ** the **** ** ********* is ********* **** *** very ******** ***** ** a ********* ********."

Other ****** ** ********** ***** ***

** * ****** ******, other ***** ***** ***** recording ** **** ** for ********** *********, *******, or ****** '******' *****:

  • "** **** **** ***** for **** **** / PD ************, *** ********** clients ** *** **** any ********* ***** ****** they **** *** ***** from ********* *************."
  • "*** **** ****** *'** worked **** ***** ********* as ** *********** ***** surveillance ** ** *** enforcement *** ******/******* *********. "
  • "*%. ******** ** ****** offices."
  • "**%. *** ******* ** typically *** *** ******* equipped **** *****(***/*******) ************. They *** ********* ** public ***** *** *** audio ***** ****** ** a **** ******** ************* of *** *********. "
  • "** ******* ******* ** a *** ** *******, and ** ** **** required ** *** ** two ***** ** * school. * *** ** school ********* *** **** weary ** ***** ***** unless **** ********** **** it."
  • "**'* **** *** ** have *** ***** ******** where **'* ********."
  • "* **** ** * school *** ** ****** the ***** ******* *** to ********** ** ******** and ******** **** ******* out ** *** *******. the ********** ** *.* percent ** *** ******* is *****"

******, *** ********** ***** is ********** ** ******** by ***** ********* ** integrator **** ******** ********. For ********* *** ************* government *********, ***** ********* requirements *** **** ******.

Comments (31)

So like video analytics and biometrics, it's one of those things where it's nice to have when you need it, even when not often used.

Now I see most laws seem to deal with "recordings", but I have not seen much about dealing with live only listening.

We have requests for audio almost every day. Here's my question. When someone comes to my house and presses the button my on Skybell, Skybell records the two-way audio.

Why is it that I have to follow the laws regarding audio recoding as a security integrator but companies like Skybell, Ring, Vivint and all of the other doorbell companies don't?

Video surveillance combine with audio helps to paint a complete picture.

Why is it that I have to follow the laws regarding audio recoding as a security integrator but companies like Skybell, Ring, Vivint and all of the other doorbell companies don't?

They don't, really? I don't know but where have you heard or confirmed that? I am curious to learn more.

I can't find any mention where Ring, Vivint or Skybell require the consumer to follow local law regarding two-way audio recording. Doesn't really make sense that they can sell and install surveillance equipment that features two-way audio and that it's legal for them todo so. 

During our first Ring test, I asked this same question to them. 

The legal environment may have changed since then, but the answer Ring gave then was recording is allowed because whomever rings the doorbell is outside your house and there is no 'Reasonable Expectation of Privacy'.

Also, because the subsequent video clip is limited to personal use rather than business or commercial use is apparently a significant factor in legal enforcement.

Ring told me they have heard of no cases making court where they have been named defendants in violating 2 party consent laws, and that the legality of their products fall under recorded intercom systems, which have been available for decades.

With all that said, those companies are not overt and definitive on these statements online, so I'll email Ring and Skybell for comment.

Brian with Ring and Skybell can you access the live audio/video at any time or does the audio on work once the doorbell is pressed?

I know where you’re going with this and that was my original thought. Button push equals consent. However you can set them up to record on motion activation. 

I think you are in the clear if the audio only works when the person presses the button but if you can open the app on your phone and listen in at any time that could lead to issues. 

Some business owners in PA just got arrested for recording audio in their winery.

I think audio recording happens more then people think and people only get in trouble if someone finds the records.   I met with a retail store owner who was recording audio on all of his cameras.   He said it was so he could listen to the conversations between employees and customers so he could teach them.  I told him what he was doing was illegal and if any of his employees found out he could get in trouble. He didn't care so we walked away. 

 Here are the audio laws in PA if you want some light reading.

 

Light reading? Lol I read through CTs laws a couple months ago and it had everything to do with wiretapping which is not what we’re doing. This is what confuses me. I think the laws are mostly outdated. I’ll look at PA and the links you posted. 

We should see if KEN KIRSCHENBAUM, ESQ will weigh in on this issue. 

Most of the laws that apply to audio use were enacted shortly after watergate.  So yes, they are greatly outdated given today's technology.

Without digging through my Kirschenbaum newsletters, many of the recent ones say in a nutshell that the obligation to comply with audio laws is the responsibility of the end user, not the integrator.

Audio and video are sent when you request a 'Live View' session even if the button is not pushed outside.

Interestingly, Ring mutes 'Live View' audio by default (you have to manually unmute it to hear), but it still is recorded. So I'm not sure this has much legal bearing as just a usability thing.

Both devices automatically stream/record video and audio together when the bell button is pressed or when motion detection activates recording.

 

Brian I think that some lawyer may take a look at that. I was at a seminar a number of years ago presented by a lawyer who referenced an example where 2 home burglars were talking and it was recorded - in their conversation they referenced this burglary to another they had done but the recording could not be used as evidence to the first home as neither had given consent. 

Private residence.  Do whatever you want

Anything can be questioned on a court of law, but I think the position that outdoor recordings have no reasonable expectation of privacy is a very good one. Look at all the YouTube videos of outdoor scenes, even protests, that never got taken down even when challenged because they occurred outdoors.

I'd almost be inclined to say ask your lawyer, but sometimes lawyers can be as bad as insurance companies in as they'd prefer you just did nothing that might require them to do work but keep on paying them money for protection.

Open the camera on your smartphone and record a few seconds of video.  Your phone will automatically record audio with it.  Did you just commit a crime?  Of course not.

The key difference between that example and surveillance applications as noted above relates to expectations of privacy.  As a manufacturer whose core business is audio for security systems, we have product in all 50 states and nearly 60 countries (including Spain and Canada) with both public and private sector installations.  The only time we've seen people get into legal trouble for audio use is for surreptitious use as defined in US Code 2510 (2), which we explicitly advise against.

Just as you wouldn't put a camera in a restroom, there are are areas we don't advise using audio.  We're not active in the residential market because there is such a heightened expectation of privacy in homes.  There are also areas where using audio ought to be expected, such as in police interview rooms.  If a suspect confesses to a crime, video playback alone won't help you in court. 

So there are areas where audio is appropriate and areas where it's not, but managing legal compliance and expectations of privacy can be done in a straightforward way. It should not be a deterrent when it's appropriate to use audio.

I noticed that some responses mentioned that is was illegal in jurisdictions with 1 party consent to do audio recordings. It can be done legally if an employee for example is given consideration in a contract. For example for $10 they consent to having voice recordings. 

What are the thoughts about audio analytics? The "machine" is listening but that doesn't necessarily mean the audio is recorded or that a human is listening. 

The way our analytics work is by listening for different sound patterns at different frequencies.  They don't listen to words, so in a sense there is a higher level of privacy by using analytics than there is by using regular audio streaming.

This is the interesting survey, especially for camera manufacturers who needs to pay royalty for MPEG-4 AAC patent. (free G.711, G.726 vs. payable AAC)

It comes down to the big question, that is, is it really worth paying 50 cents per a camera for audio recording with AAC codec which is rarely used as surveyed?

I am curious when and where AAC is necessary as opposed to free G711/726. Any opinion for this?

Good info and question. I am curious if all the manufacturers are really paying for this. Is there anyway to check?

You can check the list of licensees on the following webpages.

AAC Licensees List

If it were me, I'd say 50¢ is a pretty small cost in a camera not to have. What would be the alternative? Maintaining 2 different versions of firmware, one with a licensed codec and the other without? I think trying to maintain two different versions of firmware, or two different versions of camera with and without the codec proves too much trouble to maintain. Even with the MIC input hardware, it has to cost at most what... a dollar? It looks to me, though of course I haven't run any studies, that over the years more cameras have been coming with audio inputs than before, and I think that's been because it just wasn't worth it to try and maintain it as being optional.

If it were me, I'd say 50¢ is a pretty small cost in a camera not to have. What would be the alternative?

Given the race to the bottom, quarters count.

Also, think, if only 1 in every 20 cameras uses that, it does not cost 50 cents per user, it costs $10, i.e., you spent 50 cents 20 times but only 1 uses it.

I was thinking of the same scale of economy, but I don't think it's as simple as that. Audio is one of those things that even if not used that much, when you need it, you still need it. And if your brand camera does not have it, then they buy someone else's camera. And I propose the cost of maintaining two different lines of cameras and/or firmware would be almost equivalent to what you would save if you did not have audio in most of that camera line, or close to it.

And it's a small enough cost that from a competitive standpoint I think it paints manufacturers into a corner. Being, maybe buyers look at a $50 difference in camera prices pretty seriously, but would they object to paying an extra $5 or $10 per camera to know that every camera of Brand X they buy has audio in it if needed versus Brand Y who they have to be careful not to spec the wrong camera that doesn't have audio?

 I can only add what I have seen, and on axis cameras with audio- it seems the G.7XX audio codecs only ofree 8 kHz at 16 to 32kb/s ,  now for AAC (and one other codecs whose name/acronym starts with an O ( I don’t recall )) the sample rates go from 8 kHz all the way up to 48 kHz, And the bit rates go from 8 kB/s all the way up to 128 kB/s and higher  ).  

I don’t know if there is a codec level reason for this or just a decision by axis, but you can hear the difference in The higher sample rate and higher bit rate cOder settings (as one would assume). 

 So perhaps G.711 and g.725 only work well at low bit rates and low sample rates (I also seem to remember those being the dominant codecs for voip).

 

Interesting point on the license fee for AAC. Do you know if there is also a license fee to decode AAC ? Or does the license fee only apply on the encoding side. ( Ie  is there a license fee for something like an IP camera viewer app on an iPhone, or for a NVR to be able to record/Playback AAC audio) 

To be brief, the license fee applys to decoding side (NVR) as well as encoding side (IP camera). That is, 0.5$ for either encoder or decoder, and 0.98$ for codec(encoder and decoder).

I do a lot of audio recording for police stations in interrogation rooms, cells and booking areas. We've had success using Louroe products and wiring them into Avigilon cameras.

 

We have faced issues trying to line up audio with video thru the network. 

The statement "0%, voice recording without consent is illegal in Canada." is a misleading statement.

Criminal Code section 184 prohibits the "willful interception of a private communication."

It may be/has been argued (and fairly universally accepted) that you have no reasonable expectation of privacy while in public. Places where you DO gain a reasonable expectation of privacy however can be very broad and legally precarious.

Furthermore it can also be reasonably argued that recording audio in a large area is not the willful interception of a private communication if the audio is stated as ostensibly having been installed for another purpose. One could just as easily state the audio was to detect things like screams that indicate someone in distress, gunshots, etc. If audio was being recorded in a crowded mall for example it is highly unlikely any one conversation would be discernible. If audio is installed specifically to record third party conversations then that likely would fall under CC 184 but who would readily admit to that?

I should note that the CC does provide an exemption to recording as long as ONE party gives consent and that party is directly involved in the communication. For example I had secretly recorded a conversation with an ex-boss without his consent which was lawful because I had my consent (I ended up not needing the recording and discarded it). This however cannot reasonably be applied to most surveillance scenarios.

At best I would say CCTV audio recording in Canada is a grey area and legally situational, unless someone can point me to specific case law that states otherwise. Clients that want audio should be educated and informed about the potential pitfalls but to state it is completely illegal is inaccurate.

 

 

Sitting with some of our guys on sales this morning, their phones started responding. Apparently, they have Alexa running on their phones all the time. The audio is being stored on the amazon cloud, and they tell me that they are getting ads related to topics that they have talked about (not directly to Alexa). Is this not audio surveillance? Can you contract away a persons statutory rights like this? 

Hi Guys, Are you planning on updating current Audio usage for Surveillance options? From a brief check across the market there are few cameras with a built in audio microphone or speaker, requiring third party options. The third party option normally requires its own power source and amplification. Most cameras with audio options provide an RCA connection for mic and output speaker. This limits the overall ability of the audio options to within a few metres in a very enclosed setting; any ambient noises will also be recorded. We have a requirement in an open volume reception area where the overall size is double volume and around 50-70 square metres (150-210 sq feet). Any comments would be appreciated? Cheers Niall.

NOTICE: This comment has been moved to its own discussion: Looking For Audio Surveillance Option For Larger Reception Area (50-70sqm / 540-750sqft)

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