Ask LH: Is It Legal To Rig Up A Security Camera?

Dear Lifehacker, I often see home security cameras on sale — even ALDI has them occasionally. But before I buy one, I'm wondering if it's legal to rig one up. What's the law about surveillance in and around the home, and does it vary from state to state? Thanks, Spyman

Security camera picture from Shutterstock

Dear Spyman,

Rules about surveillance camera use fall under Australia's privacy laws, which vary slightly from state to state (you can get an overview of each state here).

Nationwide, the general gist is that you can't point a security camera in a location that a reasonable person would expect to be afforded privacy. In other words, it's okay to record the street directly outside your house, but focusing on a residential window or an enclosed backyard usually isn't allowed.

If you live in NSW or the ACT, there are additional laws about recording sound. In both states, recording of private conversations without consent is prohibited. This can be a bit tricky to avoid; especially if you live in a tightly packed townhouse or apartment block. If you want to stick to the law, our advice would be to disable the audio.

Bear in mind that if you don't own your own property the landlord will probably have their own rules and regulations about security cameras in place — make sure to ask your real estate agent before splurging on any equipment.

On a final note, you need to apply common sense when setting up your camera, regardless of what the law says you can do. For example, you might be technically "allowed" to point your cameras towards a kids' playground, but doing so would be extremely stupid.

Cheers Lifehacker

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Comments

    >In both states, recording of private conversations without consent is prohibited.

    What if you're trying to gather evidence of malicious intent?

      Put up signs saying there are video and audio surveillance in the area and to stay implies consent. Make sure they're visible (and they are common-ish enough now that most people won't even see them anyway)
      Edit: Spelling

      Last edited 22/04/13 3:18 pm

    That point about the playground is a good one. Whenever my wife and I attend the birthday party of our friends' kids, I always have to hand the camera over to my wife, to avoid looking suss.

      I have experienced similar things. I went into the children's department at Target to shop for my nephew, and got odd looks from mothers (I am, and look old enough to have children myself). I won't go into a public changing room (eg at a pool) if there are young children in there as I am genuinely afraid that at the very least parents will act is if I'm a pedophile.

      It makes me angry that this discrimination exists and is seen as reasonable. As I point out often, the majority of pedophiles are men, but what percentage of men overall are pedophiles?

      Try wearing pants to these events too.

    In QLD, I have been told you can do whatever you want with CCTV as long as it is in your yard.

    Please correct me if I'm wrong.

    Last edited 22/04/13 5:26 pm

      I doubt this. A friend of mine's parents recently had an altercation with their next-door neighbour, who installed a camera on the roof of his driveway that was aimed directly over the fence into their backyard. They promptly reported this to the police who reviewed the footage and gave the neighbour the option of moving the camera to a different angle (i.e. his side of the fence) or removing it completely. This was in Brisbane.

        Thanks for the clarification . I did mean aiming it in your own yard.

    For example, you might be technically “allowed” to point your cameras towards a kids’ playground, but doing so would be extremely stupid.

    Only in the fucked up world we live in. Why do people still think that anyone (or more specifically any man) who looks a child is a pedophile? What strange world do those people live in, where there are that many pedophiles around that that should be an issue for them to even worry about?

    I think about all the shit I did as a teenager, and how much of that would have happened in childrens playgrounds at night, there's very good reasons why people would want to point cameras in those directions. Perhaps if we stop assuming that everyone with a camera is a pervert it would be a good start to removing this dangerous obsession with pedophiles.

      I understand what you're saying, but it's up to your local police (and maybe your council) to make sure things like children's playgrounds are safe.

      If only you new......there ARE more paedophiles out there than you are aware of. The only other people, other than the counsellors that have to deal with the 'survivors' of the attacks, are the police, and that's only for those few that are caught. I say few, because compared to the actual number of offenders that haven't been caught is nothing short of astounding. Do not think that when you see a police car driving aimlessly around (even if you only see them twice in a couple of weeks....and that's only when you've actually seen them, let alone how often they have been), ask yourself why are they driving in this area - it's because they know where the paedophiles are, where they live, and are driving in that area to keep our children safe. Start recognising that police presence is for a reason (yes, not always paedophilia, but I can assure you, it's more often that you think). The US county sheriff's put a sign up in the front yard of any convicted sex offender, saying, basically, 'paedophile lives here'. Quite surprisingly, there has been no vilification action taken against the offenders, no harassment, but certainly lets the parents in the neighbourhood know just what potential threat is in their street, next door, or on their child's way to school. Worth a thought.

      Mate I right with you on that one but the biggest problem is that the human scum would take it as a open invite to video any and all kids ANYWHERE if that happened
      But yes the world is screwed and any male over the age of 15 is automatically a pedo if he is filming a child at the park even when the child is either A. His own child , B. He is the child's close relative eg. older brother, uncle or older cousin

      and as Counsellor two posts below points out their are a lot of child molesters in this world they just weren't found out to be this large a percentage of the adult population until recently as our world becomes more like a giant show of " BIG BROTHER" 24/7. Yes the invasion on the innocent and the constant thinking that any man with a camera pointed at a kid is sick in the head only 30 years ago a person so inclined could openly go and do horrendous things and get away scott free if the kid or kids didn't say anything and when they did a lot were not believed or said nothing due to threats made by their attacker
      so yes the world is bias toward men cameras and children in one situation but on the other hand a lot of child's lives are going to be the way a child's life should be happy and molestation free

      I SAY ALL THIS AS I WAS TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF AS A CHILD AND IF THERE WAS A LITTLE MORE OF THIS STOP THE SICKO THEN I WOULD NOT HAVE HAD MY EXPERIENCE SO WOULD OF MANY, MANY OTHERS IN MY BOAT WE ALL WOULD BE STABLE PRODUCTIVE MEMBER OF SOCIETY BUT MANY OF US STILL CARRY SCARS AND PAIN FROM DECADES PRIOR AND ARE NOW THE MENTALLY ILL , DRUG ADDICTED AND JUST PLAIN BROKEN PEOPLE OF THE WORLD. SOME LIKE MYSELF CAN COME BACK TO BE NORMAL EVERYDAY SCHMUCKS AND WORK 9 TO 5 BUT ALOT ARE NOT ABLE TO

    nothing specific, just what I thought. here's at least more insightful article on that topic (still, too little specific info as well) http://felenasoft.com/xeoma/en/articles/legality/

    Privacy in public spaces is a bit different to private homes. If you are being stupid or malicious with cctv you should expect to have problems on the other hand if you are using it for security (in a sensible way) is shouldn't bother anybody. i.e. if you wouldn’t want it done to you don’t do it to somebody else. There is some info and links here - http://neighboursfromhell.com.au/cctv.html

    This is quite an interesting topic to discuss. Installing CCTV systems in Sydney is governed by certain privacy legislation – especially when recording voice. I suggest putting up warning signs so people know you are recording them.

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