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Is It Legal to Post Business Surveillance Video Online?

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

It legal to post business video-surveillance footage online?

Many businesses employ video surveillance systems, and the footage can often result in useful -- or humorous -- clips that somehow find their way onto YouTube, Facebook, or other websites.

While it is likely legal for businesses to use security footage for the purpose of preventing theft, or even to track down criminals, murkier legal waters await businesses who are posting security cam footage just for laughs. Here's what business owners need to know:

Employers may legally employ video-only security cameras (even if they are hidden) to surveil the "public" areas of their businesses. Good security cam practices avoid violating federal wiretapping laws by not including audio; similarly, you should avoid violating privacy laws by not installing cameras in areas like changing rooms or restrooms.

But assuming these recording practices are above-board, how can a business owner legally use the resulting security cam footage?

Posting Online to Catch Thieves, Vandals

Businesses need a legitimate business interest to record their customers and employees, and one of the most common is to prevent theft or other crimes from occurring on their property. In addition to providing security-cam footage to law enforcement, some businesses have had success with posting surveillance footage of thieves online.

By allowing footage of a theft suspect to go viral, a business may hope to catch the alleged thief and deter future theft on its premises.

If you decide to do this, there is likely no need to "blur out" patrons' faces, as the business is not employing any person's image or likeness for commercial benefit.

Uploading Embarrassing or Funny Cam Footage

Another frequent use of business security cam footage is to add to the growing list of funny or embarrassing viral videos. While your business may have a legitimate purpose in recording this footage, it's likely not legitimate to share it with a third party for either profit or just as a laugh.

The camera may not lie, but publishing real footage that paints a person in a misleading or false light can be grounds for a lawsuit. Additionally, if an employer (or, by extension, his or her employee), decides to upload this footage knowing that it will cause someone severe emotional distress, then that business could also potentially be sued for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Uploading your business' videos to YouTube for illegitimate purposes may not have the cops beating down your door, but it creates another risk of civil litigation that could cripple your company.

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