Is Recording Audio on Security Camera Illegal?

Is Recording Audio on Security Camera Illegal?

If you’ve looked very closely at a random IP camera footage from a movie, you’ll notice something strange: the videos typically have no audio. People don’t usually see this, and it’s surprising because we’re used to watching videos accompanied by some audio.

Surprise aside, the fact that pretty much every security camera video does not have audio raises a crucial question: is recording audio on a security camera illegal? Given how badly I’d love to see my security camera footage with audio, avoiding legal issues is the only substantial reason you may want to stay away from recording audio on a security camera.

In this article, I’ll answer many people’s questions about recording audio on security cameras. Besides information about its legality, you’ll also learn to tell if a camera is recording audio to avoid saying something sensitive or implicating. 

Can Security Cameras Record Audio?

When this question is phrased this way, it becomes vague and difficult to answer. The reason for that is simple: there are legal and practical sides to a camera recording audio. You cannot record audio using your security camera if either limit you.

Regarding the potential practical limitations, security cameras can and do record audio in some instances, but most security cameras cannot record sound. If you intend to record audio for any reason, you should ensure you’re buying a camera that can do it first.

While most old security cameras can’t record audio by default, newer ones are equipped with a built-in microphone that’s sensitive enough to pick up audio in the areas where they monitor. You can sometimes connect an external mic to your security camera, giving it even better audio recording capabilities.

From the preceding paragraph, it’s clear that security cameras not recording audio isn’t because they can’t. That leaves us with the only possible hiccup: legal issues. If security cameras can record audio, can you record it using your camera without getting into legal trouble?

The answer depends on the local laws where you live, but you generally can’t record audio using your security cameras in public. There are scenarios where recording audio is helpful or even necessary, but listening to the public using an IP camera is not one of them.

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In most jurisdictions, including the United States, you can only record audio when you’ve been informed and received permission from all the registered parties, even if it’s on your property. The same stringent restrictions don’t apply to video, as all states let you record video on a property you own or control without permission from anyone.

In summary, security cameras can record audio, but they generally don’t. The reason is primarily legal restrictions; people still use indoor security cameras with audio recording capabilities to keep an eye on kids and pets. If you’ll sit the camera outside, however, it’s safer to disable the audio.

Can I Record Audio in my Own Home?

A couple of things are clear from the preceding section: firstly, security cameras can record audio, and secondly, there are stringent rules against recording other people’s conversations without expressly informing them or obtaining their permission, but what if it’s your home or apartment?

Generally, you can record security footage from your own home without worrying about any legal implications, but as you can tell, recording audio is a bit complicated. While there are no rules against using an IP camera that can record sound, there are rules against recording someone’s conversation without their knowledge, even if it’s your property.

In most US states, you must receive consent from one or all parties in a conversation before recording. Putting up a sign or telling someone they’re being recorded usually counts as consent on your property, as they can choose to leave if they’re uncomfortable with their words being registered.

However, you cannot record either audio or video in rooms where a person should have a reasonable expectation of privacy, even in your home. Installing a security camera in a guestroom would be illegal, even if you have multiple signs declaring they’re being recorded.

It would help if you considered checking the rules for your state before taking my word for it. While you generally won’t get into trouble implementing anything here, it’s always safer to ensure you’re on the right path.

How Far Can Security Cameras Pick Up Sound?

Security camera mics work in wildly different conditions from regular microphones. The mics on a phone or standard video camera get very close to the subject, while a security camera looks from above, recording conversations not directed at it. For that reason, it’s pretty clear that security cameras need to be able to pick up sound from a distance, but how far can they pick up sound?

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The answer depends on what kind of security camera you’re using and whether or not you’re attaching an external microphone. Generally, you should be able to pick up sound from as far as 15 feet using the average security camera, and that’s without the help of a separate mic.

However, if you’re willing to spend extra on a highly sensitive microphone, you can get something that covers between 50 and 1,500 square feet on Amazon for a few bucks. That should record as much audio as you’ll ever need to, and you shouldn’t be spending more than $25 altogether.

How Do You Know If a Camera is Recording Audio?

While you can sue a person recording your conversation through a security camera, it’s always best to avoid litigation. So, instead of fighting long and hard in court, it’s probably better to learn to tell if a security camera is recording audio without having to access the footage yourself.

If it’s a home security camera, the easiest way to check if it might be recording audio is to check for the presence of a speaker. Most cameras with speakers have two-way communication capability, which allows the operator to communicate remotely with someone with direct access to the camera. There’s a significant change if you can find several tiny holes anywhere around the camera. It might be recording your audio.

However, not all cameras that can record audio feature two-way communication capability. Some cameras record only video and audio without any provision for the operator to communicate with whoever is around the device. For this kind of camera, your best chance is to look for the microphone.

The microphone is usually a single and small isolated hole on the device that looks like the mic on your smartphone. Sometimes, a spot like that will carry the text “Reset,” but that isn’t what you’re looking for. If there seems to be no other functionality attached to any hole that looks like what I described earlier, you’re almost certainly looking at a microphone.

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Another way to tell if a security camera is recording audio is by checking the possibility of it carrying sound through an attached cable. The preceding section discusses cheap mics you can buy on Amazon for security cameras; these mics connect to your security camera using a line. It might be its mic if you see any suspicious-looking line attached to a camera.

If none of those checks prove that the camera records audio, you will likely not be registered. To be specific, you can look up the camera’s serial number online to verify if it has a built-in microphone. If it doesn’t, you generally should be able to have secure conversations around it.

Benefits of Audio Recording on Security Cameras

When discussing whether a security camera can record audio, why does the question keep recurring? Why do people need to record audio on a security camera in the first place? Are there any benefits to listening to people’s conversations after recording a video of them?

The fact that security cameras let you record audio should be enough proof that recording audio on security cameras can be beneficial. Here are some of the benefits of audio recording on security cameras.

Two-way audio

Specific cameras let you talk with anyone close to your security camera remotely using an app on your smartphone. So, you can speak to your baby or shout commands to your dog without being physically present, which is one extra advantage of the modern IP cameras you see around. 

Enhances surveillance quality

Video surveillance is typically sufficient, but nothing beats having access to both video and audio simultaneously. While you may have noticed that audio recording is generally illegal on security cameras in public, you should also know it depends on where you stay. If local laws let you record audio with conditions, I say go for it.


Recording audio on security cameras is illegal in most cases, and you should generally stay away from it. However, most patients don’t equal all circumstances, and sometimes audio recording can come in handy with an IP camera. This article has explained the nitty gritty of audio recording with a surveillance cam.

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