In today's day and age, recording is just a normal part of life. But, is it legal to record someone in New York State without their permission? We've all seen or heard it; people being recorded, who obviously didn't know they were being recorded...because they probably wouldn't have said or done the things they did. In radio, we record pretty much every call that comes into the station. I think most people assume they are being recorded when they call a radio station. Every now and then we'll get someone who says "don't record this." But if we still did, would it be legal?
In New York, the answer is yes, as long as we are a part of the recording or conversation. New York is a one-party consent state. As long as one person involved in the recording agrees to it, it is legal. If you record people without their knowledge and they are not aware and you are not a participant, that's when it becomes illegal,
N.Y. Penal Law § 250.05 Eavesdropping,
A person is guilty of eavesdropping when he unlawfully engages in wiretapping, mechanical overhearing of a conversation, or intercepting or accessing of an electronic communication.
New Yorkers can legally record the police. Former Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the 'Right to Monitor Act' into law in 2020,
A person not under arrest or in the custody of a law enforcement official has the right to record law enforcement activity and to maintain custody and control of that recording and of any property or instruments used by that person to record law enforcement activities, provided, however, that a person in custody or under arrest does not, by that status alone, forfeit the right to have any such recordings, property and equipment maintained and returned to him or her.
In the wake of Airbnb rentals, many hosts place video cameras around their properties, but is that legal? Security cameras are legal, as long as there is a notice posted that the owner of the property has placed those cameras around to record or it is immediately visible. However, there is an expectation, legally speaking, that cameras will not be placed where privacy is expected, like a bathroom for instance.
According to N.Y. Penal Law § 250.45,
A person is guilty of unlawful surveillance in the second degree when:
For his or her own, or another person's amusement, entertainment, or profit, or for the purpose of degrading or abusing a person, he or she intentionally uses or installs, or permits the utilization or installation of an imaging device to surreptitiously view, broadcast or record a person dressing or undressing or the sexual or other intimate parts of such person at a place and time when such person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, without such person's knowledge or consent.
There are more instances when video recording becomes illegal. You can see them here.
The law applies to recording a person in public, at work, or in private. A person's backyard, may be considered a place where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. In 2017, then-Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Backyard Surveillance Law,
Any owner or tenant of residential real property shall have a private right of action for damages against any person who installs or affixes a video imaging device on property adjoining such residential real property for the purpose of video taping or taking moving digital images of the recreational activities which occur in the backyard of the residential real property without the written consent thereto of such owner and/or tenant with intent to harass, annoy or alarm another person, or with intent to threaten the person or property of another person.
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