Ask LH: Where Am I Allowed To Point My Security Camera?

Dear Lifehacker, I own my apartment in NSW. I have installed two security CCTVs on my balcony (first floor) pointing directly down to where my car is parked. Because of the angle, the building across the street is also captured, along with anyone who passes on the footpath. What is the law for this? Is it illegal? Thanks, Law Abiding Citizen

Dear LAC,

We regularly receive variations of this question on Ask LH. (In fact, we really need to nip it in the bud with an exhaustive Is It Legal? post: watch this space!) In the meantime, here's a quick overview of privacy laws as they relate to home video surveillance in Australia.

The rules vary slightly from state to state, but the general gist is that you cannot record video in a location where a reasonable person would expect to be afforded privacy. This obviously includes the backyards and windows of private properties.

As you'd expect, most people do not like the idea of a security camera filming their bedroom window 24/7. If they ask you to remove it and you refuse, they'll have reasonable cause to take legal action.

With that said, it really depends on how invasive the footage is. Is the building across the street an out-of-focus blur, or is each window clearly visible? These are things to consider. If you think you can see more than you should, get a security camera with a shallower depth of field. After all, the only objects that need to be in focus are your car and the immediate surrounding area.

As to passersby on the street, you do not need permission to record these people. However, some states — including NSW — have laws that prohibit the recording of conversations without prior consent. If your security camera has audio, you may want to disable it to be on the safe side.

Cheers Lifehacker

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Comments

    If you think you can see more than you should, get a security camera with a shallower depth of field.Surely adjusting the angle of the camera is an easier solution.

      The question essentially says that it is at the best angle, the solution provided another way of dealing with it.

      No such thing... DOF varies with light level. You get less DOF when it's darker because the lens iris opens up.

    I am a security consultant in the security industry and can say 100%, don't use audio recording.

    SURVEILLANCE DEVICES ACT 2007 - SECT 7 (NSW)
    (1) A person must not knowingly install, use or cause to be used or maintain a listening device:
    (a) to overhear, record, monitor or listen to a private conversation to which the person is not a party, or
    (b) to record a private conversation to which the person is a party.
    Maximum penalty: 500 penalty units (in the case of a corporation) or 100 penalty units or 5 years imprisonment, or both (in any other case).

    Last edited 23/11/15 2:41 pm

      Isn't (b) explicitly covered in (a)?

        Umm nope because one the person is a party and the other the person isn't a party.

    'to which the person is a party' and 'to which the person is not a party'.

      "The party of the first part shall be known in this contract as the party of the first part..."

    to overhear, record, monitor or listen to a private conversation to which the person is not a party, or

    great so everytime i walk down the street and overhear someone talking on their mobile phone or two parties talking over coffee , i am up for a fine for overhearing the conversation that i'm not a party of

      Not quite - that follows on from

      (1) A person must not knowingly install, use or cause to be used or maintain a listening device [to overhear, record, monitor or listen to a private conversation to which the person is not a party]

      Your own ears are not a 'listening device' for the purposes of the law

        A hearing aid would be a listening device ;)

    (1) A person must not knowingly install, use or cause to be used or maintain a listening device:

    Unless you consider yourself a listening device, I think you're fine.

    How about, you install a security device that has a listening device in it, decide to turn it off after testing but you accidentally record two guys speaking in (insert language) talking about assassinating the president? What do you do? Report it but also cop a hefty fine?

    Problem: Australia has no president (yet...)

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