Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Why Can't I Record the Nanny's Conversation?

Covert Audio Laws Explained by Brickhouse Security

Many parents turn to nanny cameras in order to put their minds at ease. But as audio and video recorders such as nanny cameras become more advanced, less expensive, and more prevalent, people are starting to question what is and what isn’t legal when it comes to recording. Even though it may seem perfectly legal to use a surveillance camera with audio to record your nanny within your own home, there are some issues that may get you in trouble with the law.
Generally speaking, using a nanny camera to record covert video is fine, as long as you get the people entering your home’s consent. You may be thinking, well doesn’t that defeat the purpose of recording covert video if the person that I’m recording knows about it? Not exactly. When you hire a nanny, if you both agree that the home owner may be video recording them, you don’t need to tell the nanny exactly what is recording them or when it is recording. Instead, alerting the nanny that you are recording covert video may deter the nanny from any wrongdoing in the first place.

When you’re using a camera that records both video and audio, this is where the laws become more tricky. Although the laws surrounding audio recording vary by state, below are some guidelines to consider before using covert audio and video equipment. Please take into consideration that the laws are constantly changing and are different from state to state, so you really must contact a trusted lawyer for your particular situation.

Is covertly recording what your nanny is saying illegal?
Yes. If you want to find out what your nanny is saying and you decide to use a product with covert audio or a covert audio recording device without telling the nanny that you’re recording, it is illegal. It is illegal to record what someone else is saying without their consent because it falls under Federal Law 18.2-2512, which means that all parties must consent to being recorded. Title 47, Chapter I, Part 15, Section 15.9 iterates that parties other than law enforcement officials must have consent from all parties involved in order for audio recording to be legal.

You can’t record audio within a home because there is a reasonable expectation of privacy when a nanny is in a home, speaking at a normal volume. The nanny does not expect that a person standing on the street will be able to hear her conversation, therefore it’s considered private. That being said, the very same person on the street might be able to catch a glimpse of the nanny standing in the living room. That means that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy within the living room and that’s the rational behind being able to covertly record video but not audio.

Simply stated, if you do not obtain consent from the caregiver to record audio, you are not allowed to record. If you choose to record the audio anyway, you could face up to five years in a federal prison for breaking the law.

How do I record the nanny legally?
If you still want to record the audio of your nanny, you must follow a few steps to be in accordance with the law. First, you must obtain consent from the person being recorded. Next, you must make the camera and/or the microphone obvious to the person being recorded. That means if you buy a covert camera that has no indication that it’s recording audio, it is illegal. Lastly, you must state in writing and visibly on the camera that audio and video are being recorded, and again make this posting obvious.

If you only want to record the video of the nanny talking on the phone from a camera, you may position the camera (either hidden or in an obvious manner) to catch her talking on the phone. In other words, you may record video her talking on the phone but you cannot covertly record the audio under any circumstances because of the expectation of privacy. Again, wiretapping is illegal - so don’t do it.

Final Words
In general, video recording is legal when it occurs in a place where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy. Audio recording is illegal, unless consent is obtained from all parties. When in doubt about recording, you must contact a trusted lawyer in your state to help guide you through the laws.


Anonymous said...

If you hire someone you don't trust enough that you need to use a nanny cam then you have hired the wrong person!

Anonymous said...

1. Introduce their employers to their friends and family.

2. Show accountability.

3. Listen to the parents and honor the parents’ concerns.

4. Be open about anything concerning the children.

5. Do not gossip about the family.

6. Keep a daily log to communicate about the children.


7. Have informal weekly meetings to maintain open communication with parents about the children and the job.


Anonymous said...

I have said it before -- It's too late once the child is neglected or abused. Parents need to PREVENT needing a nanny cam.

But, there are some stories where parents are caught by nannies actually abusing the kids. It's smarter to spend the money used to buy nanny cams to hire an agency to help find a great nanny instead. Spend the money on background checks. Parents need to speak with references themselves and not leave all the leg-work up to the agency.

Worst I've ever seen from nannies is yelling or watching too much tv, both of which I see parents do it all the time too. Since it's most nannies jobs they usually do a great job!

Donna Thompson
Household Manager
New Hope, Pennsylvania

Anonymous said...

We as a society need to quit feeling sorry for the child abusers and start protecting our children. If this means offending someone because there is a nanny cam, then so be it. If this means that this person will no longer work for me because they feel that their privacy is being invaded...well don't let the door hit you on the way out. We need to speak out for the children. We need to defend their rights. They are only children taught to respect elders, we need to defend those children.
Renee Dawson

Anonymous said...

Nannies get so defensive and angry about nanny cams but video surveillance is everywhere so if it is legal there should not be a problem if parents use it in a legal way. Daycares allow the technology now and parents love it. They can log on their computers anytime while at work and see what is going on in the daycare. They ought to be allowed to monitor the care in their own home. As long as there is no invasion of privacy (bedrooms or bathrooms)really no big deal. I wonder if the nannies who answer angrily or defensively are guilty of some infraction? I mean I do not do anything too bad so I do not care if there is video monitoring. Just do not do anything at work you would not want your employer to see and you have nothing to worry about. What you eat or if you rest for half an hour reading a magazine or napping next to a toddler for half an hour, or watching tv while ironing are nothing to worry about.
Nanny Becca Seattle

Anonymous said...

I read in this publication (Be the Best Nanny Newsletter) once from someone (I think Anne Merchant the advice columnist) that we ought not get defensive and angry about nanny cams, but embrace it since it will show how hard we really are working. For a parent searching for a crime it will be some pretty boring footage.
Imani O

Anonymous said...

If your nanny knows there is a nanny cam- don't you think she will not be as silly with your children? feel pressure to always have everything be perfect- never be able to relax- because the parents are always going to see it?
Thus, you are creating the wrong enviroment for your child.
More important is to find a nanny you feel comfortable with- spend time with her before you hire her-do a trial period, personally talk to her references, ask to see org. copies of her credentials, go with your gut.
There are many other ways to check up on a nanny to be certain she is doing a good job. Take the time and effort to get to know the nanny-and don't rely on a cam to tell you what you should know from the start.
Have your nanny take photos and video tape on outings..
Call during the day- keep in touch with the nanny-try to be part of the day-have lunch together.
Drop in or have someone visit.
These are the things that will give you a better idea of what is going on.

Anonymous said...

It's sad and confusing why parents won't pay extra money to have a reputable nanny placement agency help with background checks, reference checks, interviews but spend the money on a nanny cam which can only catch the act not prevent it.

Nanny Jan
San Diego CA

Anonymous said...

Other point, I heard a mother on the playground say to other parents that they can tell the nanny they have them when they don't to ensure she works hard.

I think nanny employers should put themnselves in a nanny's shoes. Is there any worse feeling than stumbling across a nanny cam being used and you weren't told there was one in the house?

I understand all the rational logic of why parents will install them. But if the nanny isn't told imagine how she would feel finding out they are being used?

Simply tell the nanny during the interview (and if not then def before she starts working) so you don't lose her trust. She won't trust you if she isn't told and then stumbles across it.

You really are the best resource for nannies thanks so much for your hard work BTBN newsletter!

Career Nanny
Maira Lopez
Miami FL

Meg said...

I have an issue with use of the nanny cam to make sure the nanny is working hard. When I hear a comment like that I imagine an employer that expects the nanny to eat on the run and not take even a short break during nap time or other child-free time because "I'm paying her." Sure, we all need to earn our pay and be effective, but we are entitled to a break and we NEED one to be fresh and energetic with the kids. Our job isn't the type that allows a "punched-out" lunch.

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