From property protection and babysitter monitoring to gathering the goods on a suspected vandal or nuisance neighbor, the use of wireless surveillance cameras by everyday people is on the rise. Owing largely to increased affordability and a trend towards user friendliness, the option to catch people in the act is becoming ever more available for do-it-yourselfers. Though much has been written about the legal and technical issues surrounding the use of these devices, perhaps too little has been said about their ethical use. That's a shame because some advance consideration about the ethical use of surveillance cameras may just spare you, your neighbors or anybody else who happens to stroll through the frame into digital capture a few legal and moral pains.
Realize that, while going wireless really opens up the options in the placement of your camera, the technology doesn't just entitle you to placement without careful consideration. Before you setup your wireless network camera, take the time to think about what you hope to achieve.
If your goal is to keep your babysitter honest by monitoring her activity with a nanny cam, place the camera facing areas of likely activity. This may include your den or recreation room, or your living room. Consider areas in which your child is likely to play or where your babysitter is likely to pass her time after your child is put to bed. Hint: whichever room has the TV in it is probably your best bet.
There is rarely good cause to place a camera in a bathroom unless you expect your babysitter to bathe your children and are fearful of abuse during that activity. Even then, the goal here is to catch your sitter in illicit activity, not innocently using the toilet herself. Angle the camera appropriately away to ensure that her privacy is protected to the best of your ability while still affording you the right to protect your child.
In making that point, I've really summed up the fundamental goal in any camera placement. Point your cameras only at what you absolutely must to record what you're trying to capture. If you are attempting to record activity in your back yard, do your best to angle your surveillance cameras in such a way that they only capture the relevant scene while leaving your neighbor's property unobserved.
Another suggestion is to be gender conscious when the time comes to review the footage. If your babysitter is female, your wife should probably be the one to watch what your camera captured just on the off chance that the babysitter may have decided to take a shower in the very bathroom you were monitoring.
If your objective is exterior surveillance, you might want to engage your neighbors in conversation and mention your intentions. Advise them of whatever suspicious activity has been going on and your plans to monitor for the activity using a wireless surveillance camera. Be as accommodating here as possible and consider even letting them view your footage and camera angles to ensure they won't feel their privacy is being invaded.
Involving your neighbors can lead to more than just good will and the establishment of mutual trust. You may even find allies in the form of likeminded individuals suffering from the same problems that prompted you to resort to video surveillance. Perhaps your neighbor has also had his car vandalized and would like to setup his own wireless camera. You can help him set it up, double your area of coverage and make a fast friend in the process.
On the other hand, if your neighbor is the very problem you are attempting to catch in the act, tread lightly. Monitoring your own property specifically is one thing, but intentionally aiming your camera at your neighbor's property is another matter entirely. Not only are there ethical concerns, there are also legal concerns, and you could find yourself in hot water. If your neighbor catches on to the fact that you have them under surveillance, either by spotting your camera or because of other gossiping neighbors, you open yourself up to hostility or even retaliation. You're much better off leaving matters to professionals. Position your camera to protect your own property and let a private investigator or the police handle your neighbor if their actions warrant going that far. If nothing else, you'll avoid giving them ammo to use against you in the form of an invasion of privacy suit.
It is worth repeating that the flexibility afforded by wireless technology does not entitle you to record anything and everything you want. The power to do so may be appealing, but your conscience and the unwitting actors in you surveillance footage will be thankful for your discretion and ethical consideration. Know your local laws and aim your cameras only at what is necessary.