Questions surrounding audio monitoring and the law are some of the most frequent inquiries we receive. The legality of audio is often questioned by security integrators and end-users alike due to a lack of information on this topic and fears of consequences that could ensue from non-regulatory compliance. In fact, audio monitoring is very much legal in the United States when there is no expectation of privacy or when prior consent is given, whether it is expressed or implied.
As consumers, audio is an integral part of everyday life, from voice command virtual assistants like Alexa, Siri, and Google Home units. In the security industry, audio monitoring is a simple and effective way to increase security and enhance business operations. Despite this, confusion and misconceptions on the subject still lingers.
Expectation of Privacy
The first item to understand regarding the legality of audio, is the expectation of privacy. Under U.S. law, audio monitoring is legal as long as there is no expectation of privacy amongst those being monitored. Simply put, this means that in public spaces displaying clear signage stating audio surveillance is taking place on premises removes the expectation of privacy.
Consent can be either expressed or implied. This means a person can provide verbal/written consent or imply it through actions. If someone chooses to remain in a public place with signage communicating the area is being monitored by audio surveillance, that is considered implied consent.
Each state employs either a “one-party” or “all-party” consent law.
- One-party consent laws state that if you are a party to the conversation, then you are able to record it. If not, you will require the consent of one party in the conversation to record it. Thirty-eight states and Washington D.C abide by this type of consent law.
- Eleven states use “all-party” consent laws, which require all parties involved in the conversation to consent to monitoring.
Best Practices for Deploying Audio
- When in Doubt, Seek Legal Counsel: If you have questions related to specific deployments, it is always best to seek legal counsel to ensure you meet all federal and state regulations.
- Post Clear and Visible Signage: When deploying audio solutions, post signs that inform people that audio recording is occurring to ensure there is no expectation of privacy.
- Communicate Reasons for Monitoring: Reassure employees, customers, and guests that the audio security solutions are used to enhance overall safety, security, and quality assurance.