Q&A: Security Cameras and the Right to Privacy

Q Is it lawful for security cameras to be placed inside a co-op’s community room that shareholders are paying to use for their private parties? Is this not an intrusion of privacy?

—Suspicious of Big Brother

A “The question of privacy is a difficult one,” says attorney Christian Paul Daglieri of the New York-based law firm of Schechter & Brucker, P.C. “A shareholder must realize that using the community room is a privilege, not a right. Although the shareholder's function may be "private," the space being utilized remains the property of the corporation. Accordingly, their expectation with respect to privacy should be no more than what would be expected when renting a hall or conference room for a similar type of function. The shareholder is merely a licensee to utilize the space for a finite period and for a specific purpose.

“Because the co-op corporation is the owner of the space, it must protect itself (and its board members and other shareholders) against possible liability claims. In our experience, security cameras have proven to be a very integral part of a co-op's effort to protect itself (it should be noted that since recording voices raises other issues, we suggest utilizing security cameras that do not record voices). For example, someone may be hurt or injured during the shareholder's function. If the injured party commences a lawsuit, there is a distinct possibility that the corporation will be named in the lawsuit. The corporation (by its elected board members) has the duty to take the necessary steps to protect its interests. A security camera can also provide essential information if a guest at the party acts in an unruly manner and causes harm to others (or the corporation's property).

“A security camera may also provide the necessary proof in a dispute between the corporation and the shareholder regarding damage to the community room and whether it was caused before, during or after the shareholder's function. If the corporation believes something was damaged or broken during the function, the video may show the moment when the damage occurred.

“The corporation, as owner and licensor, has an obligation to maintain a safe environment for all of its shareholders as well as invited guests. Security cameras provide an additional layer of protection for everyone involved. Since the community room remains the property of the corporation, the usage of a security camera is not an intrusion of the shareholder's privacy.

“Finally, in light of the fact that a camera will be in place while a "private" party is in progress, we would recommend that a sign be conspicuously placed warning those in the room that there is a camera and that the room is under surveillance. By doing so, those at the party would be hard-pressed to claim there was an invasion of their privacy.”

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