Home security systems risk spying on privacy of guests

FDLE reports video voyeurism arrests doubled from 2011 to 2012

By Allison McGinley - News Director

ORLANDO, Fla. - On the street, inside stores, and now more than ever security cameras are inside homes.

That's because as cameras are getting cheaper and easier to install and homeowners want a live view  all the time.

[WEB EXTRA: Home security or spying]

But the question for many remains, when does a security system become an invasion of privacy for friends and family?

When Ken Hall's daughter was born his need for security intensified so he installed a small security camera inside his home.

"It's nice to have that sense of comfort, the sense of security," said Hall.

Thanks to his smartphone, he's got a virtual window to see and hear his family and friends.

He says it took a little while for his wife to adjust to always being on camera while at home.

Privacy attorney Sarah Downey worries about the explosion of these surveillance devices on the market.

"Surveillance is everywhere. It's on the streets, it's on our computers, so the home is really the last safe zone and with many of these home surveillance devices, even that sanctity is in trouble," said Downey.

Downey believes security cameras can serve a useful purpose, but will force us to face some interesting etiquette issues.

"You can use it for children. You can use it as a baby monitor. You can keep an eye on pets, but you can also know in extreme detail what your guests are doing, your adult guests, and that's something that they probably wouldn't expect," warned Downey. 

Russell Ure heads up Blacksumac the maker of some of these cameras.

He sees these smaller monitoring systems as more than security calling them portholes into private lives.

"Sort of a new notion of being a family public space inside your home, so this is not, this is not a space that is public to everybody, but it's public to a close member of your family," said Ure.

So what if you end up peeking in on your guests?

"If you're going to use these tools, you have to be courteous about them. And, it's a whole new world of, of etiquette with technology that we haven't really had to deal with yet," said Ure.

But keep in mind if you have a security system installed in a home you're renting to others gathering that video could be illegal.

Last May, 69-year-old Donald Torr of Osceola County was arrested and accused of spying on the people in his New York rental home.

Steven Mains was also arrested, charged with spying on tenants of his Brevard County home.

But if the cameras are in your own home, experts say the right thing to do is to at least notify people with a security sign at your door. 

"We usually try to tell people, but sometimes, if they're just friends and they're coming over and, you know, it's like no big deal.  We don't, you know, we don't say anything. I mean it's not a policy. we don't hand them a card and say, 'you know, you're under surveillance," said Mains.

As a homeowner you are legally within your rights to monitor your home, but never place cameras in a part of the home where people have a reasonable expectation of privacy like bathrooms.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement said arrests for video voyeurism doubled from 2011 to 2012 so experts say it's important to use common sense.

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