Hospitality Insight: CCTV Use - Keep Privacy in Mind
There are a variety of reasons that hotels and similar establishments in the hospitality industry choose closed circuit televisions (CCTV) to monitor what goes on at their properties. CCTV systems can not only catch crimes in progress, but they can also deter many from ever being committed. However, while it is important to provide a safe environment for guests and also protect your business’ property from damage or theft, where you install CCTV equipment is extremely important. Ill-advised camera placement can potentially lead to costly invasion of privacy suits filed by your customers or employees.
Expectation of Privacy
CCTV cameras are legal to use in public areas because they are just that - public areas. When an individual is in a public area where they can be clearly observed by those around them, they cannot have reasonable expectation of privacy. However, in areas deemed to be private spaces, individuals do have a right to expect a certain amount of protection from unwanted intrusions.
This right to privacy can raise concern when it comes to CCTV placement in private spaces that exist in public settings. When a customer rents out a hotel room or uses a public restroom or changing room, they have a reasonable expectation of privacy even though that area may be part of a larger public space. CCTV cameras installed in these areas could be seen as an invasion of privacy that could, in turn, open the door for legal action.
Reducing Your Liability
Avoid placing cameras in areas which could be considered to be private space. Before placing cameras, weigh the possible benefits CCTV could have in an area against the possibility that it could violate a customer’s or an employee’s reasonable expectation of privacy. Always avoid placing CCTV cameras in guestrooms, restrooms, and changing areas that my be provided near a pool.
In areas where CCTV may raise privacy concerns, consider if alternative methods of security would better serve the situation. Standard security procedures like better locks, more lighting, and an increased staff presence can all help contribute to a safer environment without bringing up privacy issues.
For CCTV used in public spaces, a good way to protect your business from invasion of privacy claims is to establish procedures that lower the expected amount of privacy. Post signs at the entrances to the building notifying the use of security cameras on the premises. Inform the customer that these devices are in place to aid in their own safety and security. Many privacy cases involve a discrepancy between the amount of privacy an individual believes they were entitles to and how much they were actually provided with. Proper notification can make it clear to both customers and employees as to what expectations they can have for their privacy upon entering your establishment.
Establishing a company CCTV policy can also help. The policy should outline the provisions for camera placement and proper camera use. It is also important to include in the policy standards for protecting any footage that is recorded. By instituting a company policy for CCTV use, camera operators will know what practices are acceptable and which could put the company at risk for litigation.