US Video Surveillance Laws Examined

By: John Honovich, Published on Nov 20, 2009

In the US, surveillance falling under the legal classification of a 'search' is illegal. Determining when video surveillance is deemed a search is the key to understanding its legality.

This is based on the 4th Amendment:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause." [emphasis added mine]

Determining whether a search is unreasonable is based on a legal test for an "expectation of privacy" and the case law coming from it.

According to Glen Fewkes at Fox Rothschild, the "courts are especially likely to base their decisions on whether the surveilled things or actions were held out to public view in any way and on the level of intrusiveness of the surveillance technology. " [cited from SIW article on how far public video surveillance can go]

In airports and border crossing, Fewkes claims that individuals do not need to actively give their consent to be searched because "they have 'consented' to such searches by virtue of choosing to fly in an airplane or crossing the border."

While the US Supreme Court has generally provided broad coverage of video surveillance including aerial photography of private property (see Dow Chemical vs the United States).

In the case, the Court does note potential limitations:

"It may well be, as the Government concedes, that surveillance of private property by using highly sophisticated surveillance equipment not generally available to the public, such as satellite technology, might be constitutionally proscribed absent a warrant. But the photographs here are not so revealing of intimate details as to raise constitutional concerns. Although they undoubtedly give EPA more detailed information than naked-eye views, they remain limited to an outline of the facility's buildings and equipment. The mere fact that human vision is enhanced somewhat, at least to the degree here, does not give rise to constitutional problems."

This raises a concern directly towards high definition and megapixel cameras. As the resolution of cameras increase, they will certainly be capable of providing significantly enhanced detail beyond human vision. At that time will the court view them as simply commonly available equipment or tools that require a warrant to use?

1 report cite this report:

SIA Security Privacy: Weak US Guidelines on Sep 14, 2010
The largest US security trade association, SIA, has issued very weak security guidelines. Their so-called 12 point "Privacy Framework" is not only...
Comments : PRO Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports on Legal

The Scheme Hikvision and China Importers Use To Avoid Tariffs on Jun 17, 2019
Hikvision and numerous China importers are avoiding 25% tariffs by including an SD card slot in their IP cameras to claim they are 'digital still...
Nortek and SDS Fight Over Failed Settlement on Jun 05, 2019
Distributor SDS said they reached a deal with Nortek but Nortek says no settlement was reached and the suit is still on. In this post, based on...
NJ Law Requires Apprenticeship For Public Works Integrators on May 24, 2019
Few integrators do a formal apprenticeship program. However, now a NJ law is requiring any integrator on public works projects (such as state...
ADT's Top Dealer "The Defenders" Sued 20+ Times on May 07, 2019
ADT's largest authorized dealer, The Defenders, has been sued more than 20 times since 2012, IPVM has verified through analyzing legal...
Dahua and Hikvision Products Illegally Sold To US Government GSA on May 06, 2019
Dahua and Hikvision products are being widely and illegally sold to the US government GSA. The sellers are falsely claiming these China products to...
UK Camera Commissioner Calls for Regulating Facial Recognition on Apr 15, 2019
IPVM interviewed Tony Porter, the UK’s surveillance camera commissioner after he recently called for regulations on facial recognition in the...
Huawei Sues US Government Over NDAA Ban on Mar 07, 2019
Chinese telecom giant Huawei is suing the US government over the NDAA ban, arguing that key provisions in it are unconstitutional.  NDAA Section...
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...
ASCMA / Moni Problems Deepen, Lenders Terminate Support Agreement on Dec 28, 2018
Ascent Capital Group, aka ASCMA, currently branded Brinks Home Security, formerly known as Moni and Monitronics faces a troubling end to a rocky...
Sublethal Camera Gun Examined on Dec 06, 2018
Sublethal is a South African company that manufactures a remotely-controlled, camera-enabled gun called the Boomslang, which is Afrikaans for tree...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Hikvision Colorvu Camera Tested on Jun 24, 2019
Hikvision says their new ColorVu line captures "vivid chromatic images in darkness", with unconventional white light illuminations whereas most...
China Subway Facial Recognition System Examined on Jun 24, 2019
A China city of 6+ million people has installed facial recognition-enabled gates in subways, allowing commuters to enter stations by simply showing...
HID Mobile Tested on Jun 21, 2019
HID Global is one of the largest access brands, but their mobile access has had challenges. Indeed, the company has already restructured their...
Genetec Beats Milestone For IHS #1 on Jun 21, 2019
For years, Milestone has touted that they are the #1 VMS. Now, Genetec has beaten them in IHS rankings. But what is this? Even other manufacturers...
Risk of Amazon Alexa Guard: No Battery Or Cell Backup on Jun 20, 2019
Amazon positions its Alexa Guard Service as a "smart home security system" and says it can help you "keep your home safe". However, the...
Exacq Remote Cloud Access Tested on Jun 20, 2019
Remote cloud access has been missing from most VMSes (including Exacq and Milestone). Now, Exacq, after releasing Cloud Drive Storage earlier in...
Briefcam Buys Frost Award* on Jun 20, 2019
Frost 'awards' are well-known and widely disrespected. Now Briefcam is touting their win. The way it has worked for many years is that Frost...
IFSEC 2019 Show Report on Jun 19, 2019
The UK's largest trade show, IFSEC, is underway and IPVM has been examining what is new and happening at the show. Inside, we cover: Huawei...
Repositionable Multi-Imager Camera Shootout - Avigilon, Axis, Dahua, Hanwha, Hikvision, Panasonic, Vivotek on Jun 19, 2019
Repositionable multi-imager cameras are one of the fastest growing segments in video surveillance, with a slew of new offerings being recently...
Genetec Synergis Cloud Link - Complex, Costly and Confusing on Jun 18, 2019
Genetec's Synergis Cloud Link is complex, costly and confusing compared to competitor access control architectures. Inside this note, we examine...

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