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.


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