Is it legal to record someone in New York without their permission

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Nowadays, recording is an integral part of life. But is it legal to record someone in New York State without their permission? We have all seen or heard it; taped people, who obviously didn’t know they were taped…because they probably wouldn’t have said or done what they did. On the radio, we record just about every call that comes into the station. I think most people assume they are recorded when calling a radio station. Every once in a while we’ll have someone say “don’t record that”. But if we still did it, would it be legal?

In New York, the answer is yes, as long as we are part of the recording or the conversation. New York is a one-party consent state. As long as someone involved in the recording agrees, it’s legal. If you’re recording people without their knowledge and they don’t know about it and you’re not a participant, that’s where it becomes illegal,

New York Criminal Law § 250.05 Eavesdropping,

A person is guilty of eavesdropping when he unlawfully engages in telephone tapping, mechanical tapping of a conversation, or the interception or access to an electronic communication.

New Yorkers can legally register the police. Former Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the “Right to Monitor Act” into law in 2020,

A person who is not under arrest or in the custody of a law enforcement official has the right to record law enforcement activities and retain custody and control of such record and any property or instrument used by such person to record law enforcement activities, provided, however, that a person in custody or under arrest does not, by such status alone, lose right to retain and return such recordings, property and equipment.

In the wake of Airbnb rentals, many hosts place video cameras around their properties, but is it legal? Security cameras are legal, as long as there is a notice posted that the property owner has placed these cameras to record or they are immediately visible. However, legally it is expected that the cameras should not be placed where privacy is expected, such as a bathroom for example.

According to New York Criminal 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 any person, he or she intentionally uses or installs, or permits the use or installation of, ‘an imaging device for viewing, surreptitiously broadcasting or recording a person dressing or undressing or such person’s sexual or intimate parts at a place and time where that person reasonably expects to live private, without their knowledge or consent.

There are more cases where video recording becomes illegal. You can see them here.

The law applies to the recording of a person in public, at work or in private. A person’s backyard can be considered a place where a person reasonably expects their privacy to be respected. In 2017, then-Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Backyard Watch Act into law,

Any owner or tenant of a residential building has a private right of action for damages against any person who installs or secures a video imaging device on property adjoining that residential building for the purpose of videotaping or taking animated digital images of recreational activities. that occur in the rear yard of the residential building without the written consent of said landlord and/or tenant with the intent to harass, annoy or alarm another person, or with the intent to threaten the person or another person’s property.

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