Beware of Cameras that Record Audio

A screenshot of what Ring looks like. Ring can be used without the recording feature. BrandChannel http://9nl.org/ext-brandchannel-ring-ding-apps

New cameras like the Ring doorbell app may not be compliant with Massachusetts law.

Popular doorbell app “Ring” allows you to answer your door even when you aren’t home. You simply install a small electronic doorbell, camera, and speaker by your front door. When a visitor pushes this new doorbell, it calls your phone. You can video chat with your guest like magic!

Ring also offers a monthly subscription that records and saves video 24-7. This is a great feature! You can review trespassers, see who delivered your package, and maybe even see who took a package! Unfortunately, this recording feature is not compliant with Mass Law. Under MGL Ch 272 Section 99, you cannot record audio without all parties consenting. Ring records audio of passers-by, and there is no way to collect consent from each passer-by.

A member asked Ring if it was possible to disable the audio recording feature, but to still have video. Ring did not respond affirmatively. You can use Ring, but you cannot use the recording feature without breaking the law.

Under Mass law, can you record video only? Generally, yes. If you had a camera system that recorded video only, you could probably save the video. It depends on whether there was an expectation of privacy.

If the camera is pointed into a public space like a driveway opening onto a street, there is “no expectation of privacy” so recording is generally permissible. In Worcester, for instance, there are now many private street and driveway cameras. Some catch glimpses of neighbor’s yards. Anyone facing the street is essentially “in public,” even if on private property, as far as privacy law is concerned.

Unlike streets, bathrooms and private gardens do come with an “expectation of privacy.” Recording here is generally not allowed.

When in doubt, talk with an attorney, or don’t make recordings.

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