Whether you want extra security for peace of mind at home, to check in on a new addition to the family, or just to unlock your inner secret agent, you may find yourself wondering if a hidden camera is right for you.
Hidden cameras are everywhere these days, in homes, at stores and restaurants, and on the sidewalks and streets. Often, people choose to install hidden cameras as part of an overall home security system. This can offer peace of mind when traveling, allowing you to make sure that your valuables and property are safe. Spy cameras are also used to protect children so that you can monitor their care when being left with a nanny or babysitter, at the workplace to keep stock of inventory, or even to make sure a new pet is adapting to their home when left alone.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through the best hidden home security cameras, spy camera, cheap hidden cameras, as well as the legality of installing or carrying a hidden camera.
Choosing the Best Hidden Camera
Selecting the hidden camera brand that’s right for your purposes may depend on whether you’re looking for hidden cameras for home or office use.
- The Sneaky Smoke Detector: This camera is highly rated for home use. Designed to look like a smoke detector, it is motion-sensitive as well as capable of recording with night vision, using infrared light. It is rechargeable and can send recording directly to your iPhone.
- Best on a Budget: This camera comes in at under $20 on Amazon. Easy to use and lightweight, this portable camera is a great way to try out recording to see if it improves your peace of mind. Despite its small size, it still records in 1080 pixels.
- Highly Rated: The Jayol Mini Spy Camera is one of the highest-rated, most versatile cameras of 2020. It’s portable, boasts high-quality night vision, and works with your phone via an app. It also records on a 24-hour loop, meaning you never miss what’s going on.
- Best Overall: This Logitech Circle 2 Camera is trusted and recommended by reputable sources like Wirecutter, Gizmodo, and Business Insider. It syncs with Amazon Alexa, Apple Homekit, and Google Assistant to keep you continuously updated on the goings-on at your home or office. It can be used with voice control and has the additional feature of a built-in speaker and microphone so that you can stay connected with whatever’s happening in real-time. It comes with free cloud storage for its 24-hour recordings, as well as other upgrades like motion detection and time-lapse briefings.
- Small But Powerful: The FREDI Hidden Spy Camera is one of the best for channeling your James Bond instincts. About the size of a thumbnail, this WIFIi-enabled camera still records a wide 110-degree angle. The date and time stamp is adjustable, and once charged, it will record on a loop, with the option to record audio. The only downside is that you have to wait to watch footage via a USB cable.
When Not to Use A Hidden Camera
While hidden security cameras can give peace of mind, they’re not legal to use in every situation. You should always check your state’s laws on whether or not hidden cameras are legal since state laws differ. You can also consult with an attorney, for extra peace of mind.
However, there are some general guidelines that can help you learn whether or not installing a spycam is legal. In most states, hidden home security cameras are legal, since they’re set up inside your own house. If a camera is inside your house, recording what goes on (like a nanny cam), it’s usually legal even without notifying everyone who comes inside. However, this can vary state by state, and certain kinds of recordings are still illegal, so it’s always best to check with the people who might enter your home and get their consent to be recorded, as well as to read up on your state’s laws!
It is always illegal and unethical to record someone in a place where they might have a reasonable expectation of privacy, like in a restroom or a bedroom, even if it’s inside your own home. If you record someone with malicious intent or use the recording for any criminal activity, like blackmail, then the recording automatically becomes illegal.
Outside of your own home, out in public, it’s usually legal to record someone, since they are already out in public. You always want to check to make sure that you’re not violating an area with that same legal standard of “reasonable expectation of privacy,” though. For instance, a shared gym locker room, hotel bathroom, or any other place that would usually be kept private is a violation to record. And federal law for recording audio, even in public, is a lot more stringent than recording video. It’s illegal to record audio of a phone conversation without at least one party’s consent.
In workplaces, surveillance cameras are generally legal as long as they’re installed for a legitimate business reason. However, recording audio can still be in violation of state and federal wiretapping laws, which is why most security cameras do not provide the option to also record sound. And even in the workplace, all people still have the reasonable right to privacy not to be recorded in certain areas.
Overall, it’s always a good idea to check with an attorney in your state before installing or carrying a hidden camera, as well as to check in with whomever you’re recording to make sure you have their consent to do so.
Hidden cameras can provide security for many people, from homeowners to parents to pet owners or at a business. However, it’s always important to read up on state and federal law about recording covertly, to consider the ethics of secret recording, and to know the differences between recording audio and recording video. Once you’ve done the research, you’re ready to find the best-hidden camera for your needs.