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
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.)
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.
Have a question you want to put to Ask Lifehacker? Send it using our [contact text=”contact form”].