Are Neighbors Security Cameras Invading Your Privacy?


Neighbors camera looking over my propertyObviously we all want to secure our homes the best we can. The outdoor home surveillance camera system is one security measure lots of people take. But before you start putting up cameras to watch over your property, it’s important to take the neighbors into consideration. Many people don’t! There are plenty of complaints on social media and in local online community forums. The most common question asked is this: “What can I do about my neighbor’s security camera?” The complaints are not so much about the cameras as what they’re pointing at, or the angle of the cameras. In other words, people feel that the camera owners are spying on them or their property, and it feels uncomfortable.

NOTE: You can jump to any part of this post by clicking the links in the table of contents

Table of Contents

  1. What the Law Says
  2. Is My Neighbor Really Invading My Privacy?
  3. To Catch a Thief
  4. Find the Balance

What the Law Says

As far as the law goes, outdoor security cameras are fair game in public spaces. Today we can see them attached to all kinds of buildings pointing down to the public spaces below. The problems arise if cameras point somewhere private, either if it’s unintentional. For example, a neighbor may have a surveillance camera pointing in the direction of your house as it records an area of their own property. Or perhaps they have a camera monitoring the garden shed that also captures your back garden in its field of view (FOV). And when a camera points toward one of your windows, well, that can cause some legitimate distress too.

If you have issues, here are your two options:

  1. Talk directly to your neighbors about your concerns, without insinuating any wrongdoing
  2. If talking doesn’t work, lodge a complaint with the relevant local authority

Privacy laws on new technologies are always evolving and changing—drones being a classic example. In general, individuals who operate private surveillance cameras may not be accountable under the privacy act. However, they could be answerable to the following bodies:

  1. State laws
  2. Territory laws
  3. Local police

Is My Neighbor Really Invading My Privacy?

Let’s say a security camera aims at your house, especially its windows. And let’s also assume it doesn’t pick up any of the neighbor’s property or grounds in its FOV? In this case it’s a blatant invasion of your privacy. If the camera just catches your house as part of a broader area, then it’s probably not invading your privacy, at least not deliberately. Even if they are recording your personal outdoor space, you may not be in a position to qualify for an invasion of privacy claim. This is still one of those gray areas that are not clear-cut in legal terms, because it’s not always easy to prove a case.

What about if the neighbor’s camera points toward your garden or yard only, even if it’s obvious? Again, there are no laws yet to say that they can’t record open spaces outside of their own. This will be an obvious disappointment to people who spend a lot of time in their gardens.

To Catch a Thief

The whole idea of outdoor home security cameras is to catch a thief, not catch a neighbor. Alas, conflicts between neighbors and security cameras are fast becoming common disputes. Even though we live in a world were security cameras are everywhere, none of us expect neighbors to capture video of us in the privacy of our own homes. It’s a growing menace though. I think this problem will get worse before it gets better as the outdoor weatherproof cameras continue to get more affordable.

Find the Balance

There’s no getting away from the fact that home security cameras can be a godsend. They can deter or catch criminals in the act, identify vandals or simply keep an eye on the kids when they’re outside playing. The secret here is to use them wisely and respect the privacy of neighbors. There are all kinds of cameras that we can use to customize our security setup. In most cases, with the right cameras in proper positions, there shouldn’t be any need to include large parts of a neighbor’s house or garden in the camera’s field of view.

The three questions to ask yourself about your own outdoor setup are:

  1. What am I trying to catch on camera? (be specific)
  2. What is my camera actually catching? (be specific)
  3. What are you doing with that recorded video?

Conflicts and lawsuits between neighbors can go on for years sometimes. No one should have to live in that kind of environment, but some do. So as you secure the outside of your home and any outbuildings, you should at least consider the privacy of your neighbors as you design and setup your security system.[1], [2]

Resources

  1. http://m-jas.org/HomeSecurityCamera/home-security-camera-laws
  2. http://www.londonancestor.com/home/security-camera-privacy.htm


About Mark Bickmore

Hi, my name is Mark Bickmore. I'm an Engineer, who has a keen interest in home security and keeping my family, property and valuables safe from burglars. This website was set up to help me explore the research, facts and myths about burglars and burglary. Please feel free to contact me should you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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