City Busted Using Spycams in Bathrooms

Author: Carlton Purvis, Published on Sep 04, 2013

Surveillance cameras in bathrooms? Hard to believe. In city bathrooms? Even harder. Bought by the city itself? Almost impossible.

Nonetheless, more than a dozen secret surveillance camera have been used in public bathrooms, according to an investigation conducted by a former firefighter in Michigan. In this note, we explain the case, how the firefighter built it and the legal / privacy implications of this fiasco.

**********

**** ****, ********* ******** *** ***** *** *** ***** ** speak ** **** ******* *******. ** ******* **** * ******* accusation **** ********* ** ** ********* ***** *** **** ***** surveillance ** *** **** *** *****. ***** **** ** ***** 14 *******, ** ** **** ****** ** ********* ** ******* Ludington *****, ******* *** *******:

“**** *** ***** ** *********, ** ********* * ******, ** ******* ** ** ** **** *******, and ****** *** ** **** ** **** ** *** *** a ********* ****** ******* ** *** ******* *****."

*** ******* **** ***** ** ***** *********** *** *** *****'* the *********. “***** ******** *******” ********** ***** ******** ****. *****, * ****** ********* ***********, ******** ******* **** blueprints **** ***** **** ** ********** *********** ** *** ********* that ***** ****** ********** ** ****** ***** ********. 

****** ** ***** ******* *** **** ******* ********, **** ******* told *** **** *** **** *** ** (***** ** *** ******* ****), ** ******** *** ** *** ********** * ***** ********** *****. *** ** *** ****** ** provided ** ********* **** ******* *****: 

The **** ****** *** *******

**** ***** *** ******* ** *** * ******* **** *** city's *** ******* **** ********* ** ****** **** ** *** cameras. ********* * ****** ******* ************* *** ******** *** ************ ********* ** ********** **** (***** has**** *** **** ** ***** ***** ******** *********** **** *** ****** ******* *******). **** ** ******** showed **** **** ** ****, *** **** ********* *** "***** smoke ******** *******," *** ************ *******, * ****-***** *** *** two***** *******. *** *** ******** ******* *****:

Ludington Camera Purchases

The ****’* ********

**** *********** **** **** * ***** ************* *** ******* *** ****** ** ******* ***** *** **** point ** “****** *****” ** *** ********. ******** ******* *** only **** ******** ***** ***** ****, ** ****. ** **** confirmed **** **** ** *** ******* **** ***** ******* (**** on *** *******).

******* *** ******* ******* *** ****’* ******** ** ***** ******** cameras, **** **** *** ***** ********* ******* ** *** ******** weren’t ******* ** ***, *** ******** *********.

*** **** ******** ******* ****** **** *** ******** ******* ***** has **** ***** ******* **** ******* *** ** ******* ** the ****** ***** ** * ********, *** *** *** ******. Neither *** ********, **** ******* ** ********* ***** ***** *****.

* ************ **** **** *** ******** *** ***** ******* ** the *******, *** ** *** *** ****** *** ***** ** emails **** ****, *** *** **** ******** ******* ******. 

What *** *** ****

* **** *** *** ***** *** ******** ***** *** **** attorney *** ********* **, *** ******** ***** ****, **** **** others, ******** ***** ************ ** ***** ***** ****** **** * reasonable *********** ** *******.********’* ************ *************** ********* ************* *** ********* ****** ** “*** ************* **** by ******* **********, *** ****** ********* ** ******** ** ******* individual, ** *** ****** ******* ** * ****** ********** ***** circumstances ** ***** *** ********** ***** **** * ********** *********** of *******.” * ** ********** ** **** **** ***** ** a ****** ******** *** **** ********* ****** *****. 

*** ******* ****** ** ******* ** **** ***** ********* ************, but ******* ** ****** ********* *** ********** ***** (*** ***** even ***** *********** ** ********* ****** ********* **** *************). *****, ****** ******* ****** ******* **** *** **** *** the **** ******** *** *******, *** ** *** **** ****** in ***** ***** ****** ******* **** ** *********** ** *******.

*** ****’* ******** ** ****. * ******* *********** ***** **** the ********** ******* * ***** ********, * ******** ******** *** a **** ***** ********. ************, *** *** ***** ******** ********* wired ** ***** ** ** ****** *** ******** ** *** bathrooms. ***** ** ***** **** ********* **** ************ ** ******** that ******.

** ** ******, ** ***** *** **** *** ** ***** to **** ********* ****** ** ****** *********. ** **** **** goes ** *****, * ***'* **** ** *** ********* ** 13 ***** *** ***** ** ** ****** ****** *** * judge ** *** *** **** **** **. 

Comments (15)

I've installed surveillance cameras in public restrooms in the past. The police reviewing the video footage (from time to time) didn't seem to mind at all.

I hear there are hidden cameras behind changing mirrors at department stores, based on one the Opera Winfrey show episode. And they said it was perfectly legal for as long as signs are posted. Last time I was at a Sears store, there were very visible signs (under surveillance cameras) before entering the changing rooms.

Wow. "The police reviewing the video footage (from time to time) didn't seem to mind at all." I don't think the viewer is the issue. It's the viewee, i.e., the person in the bathroom who is likely to mind.

There's a big difference between cameras at an entrance to a bathroom / changing room vs ones inside the room.

Do you have a link to the hidden cameras behind changing mirrors? Because I think many would find it deeply offensive. I did find a case where the door slits were adjusted to make it easy to look in (but not see out). However, the resulting protests quickly forced that Macy's to change this.

John,

The drug dealing occurs in the public washrooms, that's why they had me install those cameras. The viewees are seeing peeing in the urinals, but showing only their backs.

I don't have any references to the Oprah Winfrey show episode that discussed it. I looked on their website, but their search engine is quite useless. During the show that discussed it, Oprah said she always shows her butt to the mirrors. They even showed recorded video clips of cameras installed at hotels where you'd see people showering, all of which they proclaim to be legal (according to the show). Was this just to shock people for viewers rating, I don't know, but based on my visit to Sears, I'd say they are right. Big warnings of surveillance cameras before entering the changing rooms, but no visible cameras anywhere.

Oops, I forgot to mention that they said the security people working for those department stores were having fun watching the people trying out clothes ... giving comments.

"the security people working for those department stores were having fun watching the people trying out clothes ... giving comments."

I am sure this happens. I remember an incident where the security guard used a PTZ to zoom in on models changing in a mall fashion show.

That said, they got fired for doing so, which is something I would expect if the public or a reasonable superior found out about it.

I am not doubting this happens. I am doubting whether it's (1) legal or (2) tolerable by the public.

As long as the public doesn't know about it, it is tolerated. <g> Someone out there should know for sure, manufacturers, governing bodies, etc..

A few patrons at the clients' nightclub did find out and complain about it, but nothing happened as a result. The hidden cameras have been in place for the past 8 or 9 years.

What are the odds that a 13 yr old time lapse recorder is even functioning in 2013? It's tough to claim your privacy is being violated by a non-functional recording device.

Also, from that local story referenced:

"Rotta also alleged that cameras were in the newly renovated restrooms on the north side of Stearns Park. He took pictures of what appeared to be smoke detectors and claimed the detectors had cameras in them. Shay said they aren’t smoke detectors but rather are humidity detectors and they do not have cameras in them. When the sensors detect humidity, the fans automatically turn on. The sensors have lenses on them, which make them look like cameras."

Are there any pics of the humidity sensors?

Humidity sensors do not have lenses on them.

Here's one Marty. All the pictures here.

Why do you need humidity detectors in the bathrooms anyway?

The rule of thumb I've dealt with for the last 12 years in this industry is that cameras in bathrooms are a no-no because the ENTIRE restroom area has a reasonable expectation of privacy.

I have a feeling a large settlement from this city is forthcoming.

Why do you need humidity detectors in the bathrooms anyway?

In the absence of HVAC system, humidity sensors tied to exhaust fans are provisional improvements to keep toilet paper from getting soggy and mirrors from fogging. Lowering humidity also keeps facilities free of mold & mildew, reducing upkeep costs.

This bathroom is located near a beach, so the assumption is high humidity during the summer is even higher inside a bathroom facility.

(Now someone can endorse me for 'watercloset design' on LinkedIn.)

doesn't one have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a public restroom? what makes them think that this is ok or that people would be ok with it? i would think that the city will have a lawsuit on their hands now that this information is public.

Michigan loves their public park bathroom cameras. Here's another, similar story from Norway, MI a few years ago.

In the definitions section of the MI statute you linked to, 750.539a, it defines 'Private Place':

"(1) “Private place” means a place where one may reasonably expect to be safe from casual or hostile intrusion or surveillance but does not include a place to which the public or substantial group of the public has access."

The bolded part above appears to give them an exception even if public park bathrooms are legally deemed to be a private place... :(

I've heard that one can record anything they want at home. An American lady once sued her boyfriend (or acquantance) after he showed their love making on film to friends. She supposedly lost the suit. Reason, he supposedly had legal rights to record anything he wanted at his own house. Another crazy story from the States, but how true is it, I don't know.

I've heard that one can record anything they want at home.

Undisclosed, that isn't entirely true. There are a lot of other laws that can come into play (and have in similar cases) from copyright violations, to likeness infringement, to privacy depending on what the video is used for, how it was recorded, etc.

Additionally, the girlfriend could have argued "reasonable expectation of privacy" in that case just like she could on any other private property.

Agreed Keefe. Just because there is a sign doesn't mean it's appropriate.

Having been an installer I always scope out the cameras wherever I am. To my knowledge I have never been recorded in a restroom or clothes changing room. Also as an installer, I would have turned down any request to install cameras to record these areas.

Scott,

I once turned down a client wanting to install microphones to evedrop on employees and customers. But, if installing those cameras is actually legal, who am I to say no. But, I do agree those stores are going too far, if indeed they put cameras behind changing room mirrors. One way to find out might be to try to scratch the mirror. Plastic mirrors easily scratch.

Login to read this IPVM report.
Why do I need to log in?
IPVM conducts unique testing and research funded by member's payments enabling us to offer the most independent, accurate and in-depth information.

Related Reports on Privacy

Casino Surveillance Pro Interview: James Lathrop on Feb 15, 2019
James Lathrop has been working in casinos for almost 25 years. During that time, he says he has held "just about every job you can do in the...
Austria’s First GDPR Fine Is For Video Surveillance on Jan 29, 2019
Should EU businesses be concerned if police see a business' surveillance cameras filming public areas? This is what happened with Austria’s first...
UK: Private Video Surveillance Complaints Down Since GDPR on Jan 09, 2019
The arrival of the GDPR on May 25, 2018, brought fears the law would spark a massive increase in privacy complaints about security camera use....
IPVM Best New Products 2019 Opened - 70+ Entrants on Jan 07, 2019
The inaugural IPVM Best New Product Awards has been opened - the industry's first and only program where the awards are not pay-to-play and the...
Startup Sunflower Labs' Autonomous Drone Security System on Dec 11, 2018
Startup Sunflower Labs is claiming a unique design on a home security system, combining autonomous drones and 'Sunflower' sensors. Imagine an...
Cybersecurity Insurance For Security Integrators on Nov 29, 2018
Most security industry professionals carry insurance to cover themselves in the event of a general loss. However, most are not carrying cyber...
No GDPR Penalties For UK Swann 'Spying Hack' on Nov 20, 2018
The UK’s data protection agency has closed its investigation into Infinova-owned Swann Security UK, the ICO confirmed to IPVM, deciding to take “no...
French Government Threatens School with $1.7M Fine For “Excessive Video Surveillance” on Nov 14, 2018
The French government has notified a high-profile Paris coding academy that it risks a fine of up to 1.5 million euros (about $1.7m) if it...
Genetec Privacy Protector Tested on Nov 12, 2018
Genetec has built Kiwi Security's Privacy Protector into Security Center, an analytic which anonymizes individuals in cameras' fields of view...
Belgium Bans Private Facial Surveillance on Jul 06, 2018
Belgium has effectively banned the use of facial recognition and other biometrics-based video analytics in surveillance cameras for private,...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Hanwha Smaller Multi Imager Tested (PNM-9000VQ) on Feb 14, 2019
Hanwha's first repositionable multi imager PNM-9081VQ tested well, but was huge, over 12" wide and weighing in at over 10 pounds. Now, they have...
ADT And 'The Defenders' Silent About Massive Complaints on Feb 14, 2019
ADT's largest dealer, "The Defenders" has been the subject of a massive number of complaints over many years and many forums, most recently a CBS...
Hikvision Chairman Praises United Front on Feb 14, 2019
Hikvision’s controlling shareholder held a meeting last month praising the United Front, a Communist Party organization known for its secretive...
Sales Turnover At Anyvision on Feb 13, 2019
Anyvision raised a $43 million Series A and according to their newest investor: what you need to do is push the gas pedal and build an...
Cisco Meraki Cloud VMS/Cameras Tested on Feb 13, 2019
Cisco Meraki says their cameras "bring Meraki magic to the enterprise video security world". According to Meraki, their magic is their management...
Uniview / UNV Favorability Results 2019 on Feb 12, 2019
Uniview / UNV, the self-proclaimed #3 China manufacturer, while starting late, has been working to make inroads internationally. In IPVM's 2019...
Nortek Mobile Access Reader BluePass Examined on Feb 12, 2019
Nortek's Linear access control division claims to make mobile credentials "more secure and easier to use than ever before" with their BluePass...
Solink Raises $16 Million - Company Profile on Feb 12, 2019
Most industry professionals have never heard of Solink, a company whose tagline is: It's time to revolutionize the way business uses...
Barnes Buchanan 2019: Despite 'Strange Narrative' Great Time To Be In Security on Feb 11, 2019
A "strange narrative" is being spun, said Michael Barnes at the 2019 Barnes Buchanan Conference. However, despite that narrative, it is a "great...
Milestone Drops Hikvision From Elite Partners on Feb 11, 2019
Milestone has quietly dropped Hikvision from their 'Elite Partners', less than 3 years after adding the Chinese government-owned...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact