Are Hidden Nanny Cams Actually Legal?

Whether they’re on our phones, computers, subway platforms or streets, cameras are practically everywhere – even in many peoples’ houses. 

Even though we’re rarely sure who will catch someone in the act, the chances are pretty good that the act is being captured by a camera.

A hidden “nanny cam” recorded a Westchester man as he tried to take inappropriate photographs of a child.  Another nanny cam in Brooklyn caught a baby-sitter in the act of abusing a 6-month-old girl. 

While the use of nanny cams in homes is on the rise, do they represent an invasion of your privacy?

Is It Legal to Install a Nanny Cam in a Home in New York?

Yes, residents in New York have the legal right to install hidden nanny cams in their homes. 

Keep in mind that New York is a one-party state. This essentially means that as long as at least one party is aware of the recording, it’s legal. 

Even if you’re not told about the existence of a nanny cam, you should always assume you’re on camera when in someone else’s home.

Although they’re legal, there are some restrictions with the use of nanny cams.

  • No one has the right to record you when you expect a reasonable amount of privacy. While most nanny cam users will install the camera where their child, elderly parent, or pet spends most of their time, they do not have the right to record you in the bathroom, for example. Likewise, if you’re in a live-in employment situation, your living quarters should be off limits to hidden cameras. 
  • The camera must be used for reasonable purposes. It’s one thing to monitor your interactions with someone’s child. It’s completely different – and potentially illegal – when the camera is used to publicly share private matters.
  • The footage and audio cannot be used for blackmail purposes. Even if the footage and audio was recorded legally, the owner essentially waives their rights if they attempt to engage in criminal behavior. 

Although homeowners have the legal right to use a hidden nanny cam, installing one can also lead to a breach of trust between a parent and their babysitter.

What Is A Nanny Cam?

Also known as “spy cams” and “hidden cameras,” nanny cams are very small cameras popular for use in homes, apartments and offices. In addition to stand-alone models, many nanny cams are made to resemble other objects or hidden within others, like the face of a clock, a doll’s eye, etc.

Some nanny cams will store their recordings on a memory card, while many of the newer models enable the owner to monitor the room in real time through wireless streaming. 

Are Hidden Cameras Legal in an Office?

Yes. However, just as with nanny cams in a residence, such cameras in an office setting must be for legitimate purposes only. 

This can include security issues or productivity concerns. You cannot be recorded in a space where you should enjoy a reasonable amount of privacy (locker room, bathroom, etc.).

Can Nanny Cams Be Used in New York Nursing Homes?

It’s understandable to want to keep an eye on the level of care for an elderly loved one in their nursing home. However, New York law neither permits nor prohibits the use of hidden cameras in nursing homes.

In other words, it’s usually up to the owners and managers of the facility to allow or deny the use of such cameras. Most do not allow them because of privacy concerns of other residents. 

What Can I Do If I Find Out My Employer Illegally Recorded Me? 

If you feel your privacy has been invaded, you may be able to sue your employer for unlawful surveillance. 

Just last year, a New York nanny took legal action after she discovered a hidden camera over the sink in a guest bathroom – the very room in which she changed clothes while working. The camera had been disguised to resemble an iPhone charger.

The nanny removed the camera’s memory card, took it to police and filed charges.

What Are the Penalties for Illegal Surveillance with a Nanny Cam?

If the owner violated your privacy by recording you in a bathroom or changing area, broadcast the footage without your knowledge, or recorded intimate exposed body parts, they could be charged with unlawful or illegal surveillance. 

This is considered a felony and carries a seven-year prison sentence. They could also be liable for money damages in a civil claim.

If you feel your privacy has been illegally violated with a hidden nanny cam, a skilled attorney is the best person to help you decide whether to take legal action.