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
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.
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