A Private Matter Communities Must Balance Privacy and Security

The issue of intellectual property and an individual’s right to privacy has become a greater concern since more and more people conduct their lives online—whether for banking, social media or dating. While the aforementioned generally have security features encrypted in programming platforms, there remain justifiable concerns as to what is actually protected. This heightened sense of scrutiny results in ancillary privacy concerns, especially for those living in community associations.

Whether it is the installation of security cameras, insider criminal activity or environmental health concerns, both boards and residents have to be aware of state laws and governing documents. Cases of privacy intrusion happen from coast to coast. Last year, for example, a Florida family living in a penthouse suite sued its condominium association for cell phone towers that were installed on their roof without permission causing loud noises and health risks. In Hawaii, a security guard was arrested for copying residents’ keys and stealing credit card and banking information.

Shared community living does possess certain rights and restrictions and questions regarding privacy are always at the top of the list.

“Most occupants of multifamily residential buildings believe that they are entitled to a safe living environment, with minimal intrusion from landlords or from cooperative or condominium boards or from their neighbors,” says David Berkey, an attorney and partner with the New York-based law firm of Gallet Dreyer & Berkey LLP. “Their privacy expectations usually are greater than the legal obligations imposed on owners or managers of such residential buildings. Generally, the law imposes few privacy obligations upon owners or boards,” he continues. “The occupants are entitled to a working door lock so that others may not invade their home, reasonable security given the past history of the building and neighborhood, and freedom from improper intrusions, including visual or electronic intrusions.”

The “Rules” of Privacy

In all states, a person has the right against unreasonable, substantial or serious interference with his (or her) privacy. Above and beyond this mandate, there are federal and state electronic records laws, health privacy laws, laws regulating what information may be released by the government and by employers and laws regarding the unauthorized use of a person’s name or image.

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