Ask LH: Is It Legal To Install A Camera In My Swimming Pool?

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Dear Lifehacker, Is it okay to have cameras installed in home swimming pools? I want to rig one up for a variety of purposes, but don't want to get fined for doing so! Any advice? Thanks, Underwater Viewer

Dear UV,

The appropriate use of surveillance cameras on private property is outlined by Australia's privacy laws, which vary slightly from state to state. (You can get an overview of the laws in each state and territory here.)

The broad legal principle is that private property owners can point security cameras wherever they like - except for areas where a reasonable person would expect to be afforded privacy. This means you can't rig up a camera in your guest bedroom or toilet, for example.

There are additional laws that prohibit filming for indecent purposes; particularly if the offending material was produced for the purpose of sale. Naturally, making visual recordings to observe another person's genital or anal region without permission is illegal. If you live in NSW or the ACT, you must also receive explicit consent before recording a private conversation. (This can be easily circumvented by disabling the audio on recordings.)

See also: How To Take Photos Of Strangers | Can Someone Take Pictures Of You In Public And Publish Them?

So do swimming pools fall into the "privacy" category outlined above? This is somewhat debatable. The majority of people consider unsolicited poolside photography to be a violation of their rights, but that doesn't make it against the law. While it's true that most public swimming pools forbid the practice as a condition of entry, this is a house rule imposed by local councils rather than a higher authority.

Regardless of what the law says, your friends are unlikely to appreciate having their underwater frolics recorded, especially if you don't say anything and one of them discovers the camera. To paraphrase the NSW Photo Rights website, even when there is no "reasonable expectation" of privacy, all it takes is one angry acquaintance or suspicious parent for an investigation to be launched. Although you are highly unlikely to be charged with anything, it's not a particularly good look.

To stay on the safe side, place a sign in your pool that clearly explains the area is under 24-hour surveillance. Your guests can then make up their own minds as to whether or not they want to enter. In conclusion, covertly filming somebody in a bathing suit probably won't get you busted by police — but it will make you look like a massive creep.

You can read a broader overview of photographer’s rights in Australia (which includes videography) here. If any readers have conflicting opinions or legal advice of their own, let UV know in the comments section below.

Cheers Lifehacker

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    When he says "in the swimming pool", does he mean a camera overlooking the pool area (justifiable as part of home security), or one in the actual pool itself like the photo (totally creepy)?

      "In" suggests an underwater setup. It's not automatically creepy though. Maybe he swims competitively and wants to monitor his technique?

        Because so many people have lap pools...

          You can still practice your strokes and turns. (Okay, he's totally a creeper.)

            Ah... yeah sure, he wants to record his "Strokes" (one raised eyebrow)

          I really can't think of any other reason to have a pool if not to swim laps and git gud.

            One will never be able to explain gitting gud to mere skrubz.

            Just messing around in the water having fun? Enjoy the water, maybe have a splash fight, see how long you can hold your breath underwater... I used to let all my breath out so I would sink, then see how long I could lie at the bottom of the pool before I had to surface.

            There are a lot of pool designs that are pretty useless for swimming laps but decent for the other stuff.

            Of if you're doing physio a pool is invaluable.

    So just have a sign printed that says "Warning, underwater cameras may record you while swimming"
    Problem solved

    It's funny the underwater angle. My first thought on reading 'in your swimming pool' was referring to the general pool area for security purposes to catch the damn neighbours who keep coming over and using your pool while you're at work but deny doing it. :P

    A permanent camera IN your pool is so creepy, I'd suggest get a go-pro and install something to hook it onto when you need it for whatever reason! (Even if it is for shady reasons)

    Filming kids like this would present a pretty high risk of being child exploitation material, which is a criminal offence in most jurisdictions.

    Maybe he wants to catch his neighbors using his pool while he is at work...

    permanent underwater surveillance is a little creepy - but setting up a camera to get some underwater video could be pretty cool. I've used my sony z3c to get 4K video of my daughter swimming underwater - looks awesome.

    Lifehacker, once again delivering us the best clickbait photos.. This is a genuine compliment :)

    Waves are a nuisance, but thanks to the refractive index a camera IN the pool acts as a wide angle lens, seeing more detail ABOVE the pool.
    It might also catch whoever is jumping the fence and pissing in the pool.

    Play the underwater video on a tv screen poolside. Mite be a big party hit. Doesn't have to be creepy.. or even sexual.

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