Make no mistake about it, American Constitutional Law and Fourth Amendment Jurisprudence state that you can record people in a public area. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy if a person is in a public space. In other words, if you are in a public area where other people can see you, you cannot complain that you are being recorded. This is long settled law in the United States. That’s why those “Girls Gone Wild” videos are kosher…in the eyes of the law.
Keep this in mind if you are thinking of buying a door peephole camera that allows for recording. While it may seem like it’s a slam dunk to record footage, remember that it has to be in a public space. If you are going to be installing door peephole cameras in your building, make sure that there is a public area where the door peephole cameras are focused on. If the camera, on the other hand, is focused on something that is purely interior, then the argument could be made that a person being recorded has a reasonable expectation of privacy. That is a violation of privacy rights, and you can land in legal hot water.
While it is true that there are no expectations of privacy in a public space, this is not an easy determination to make. There are other factors that you have to keep in mind. Still, does it make sense to record footage provided the footage is being shot in a public space? Here are the reasons why door peephole cameras should be allowed for recording.
The most common reason why people install door peephole cameras in the first place is for security purposes. You want to know who is coming in and going out of your building. You want to know who is trying to knock on the door or trying to access the door. This is a very important security concern, and it outweighs any privacy issues because the door presumably opens up into a public hallway.
While it may seem like a good idea to record footage, you have to understand that you are accumulating data when you are recording. This data has to go somewhere. It has to be stored some place. This is not as easy as you think. You might have to set up a system where stored footage needs to be deleted to make space for new footage. Depending on the cutoff date, the deleted footage might actually have a very important security element that might impact a lawsuit or some sort of criminal investigation.
Another issue that you have to keep in mind when looking to record footage captured by door peephole cameras is whether you have enough power to supply the unit. Either you have to wire the camera or you have to replenish its batteries constantly. Of course, both options have their own set of advantages and disadvantages. It is really important to be mindful of the pros and cons of your power options. It also depends on the particular model of the peephole camera you are thinking of installing.
Playback and Access Considerations
If you have decided to record footage captured by peephole or door-based cameras, the next step is to determine how you are going to play it back, who has access, what kind of circumstances require playback, those kinds of things. Again, this may seem pretty clear-cut and straightforward on paper, but when it comes to actual implementation, you might find out in the worst way possible that it is actually a bit more nuanced and complicated than you think. This is especially true if you work for a large organization where there are a lot of people, and you have to determine who has access to what and when and under what circumstances. This can easily get very confusing.
Once the data is recorded and stored, the next step is proper archiving. Where exactly are you going to archive the recorded materials? What is the cutoff date when you can delete archived materials safely? Who has legal responsibility for archived materials? Keep in mind that if you are just a private homeowner in the United States, this is not a problem because you call the shots; you make all these important decisions. However, if you work for an organization, this can get quite tricky because it involves a lot of bureaucracy and possible legal issues.