A few weeks back, Twitter users bore witness to a concerning video of a middle-aged woman calling the police and claiming to feel threatened by an African-American man recording her in the park. While there are many aspects of social issues that have been showcased in this video, I would like to draw your attention to the woman's claims that she was being recorded illegally by the bird-watching man.
Public recording and secret wiretapping began as a major issue back in the 60s, mainly in the US, when reports surfaced of intelligence agencies spying on political figures and ordinary citizens. This led to the adoption of the Federal Wiretap Act in America.
Coming back to the case at hand, the abovementioned clip went viral. However, the man with the camera was definitely within his rights to record the incident. This is primarily because of an underreported fact about the confrontation.
In the 60-second clip, the woman appears to be in the park with the purpose of walking her dog. But at this instance, the dog is off its leash. The park(government property) has a strict rule against owners letting their dogs off the leash. The man wished to report the incident and hence recorded it.
This principle is of huge importance. An A/V recording within the premises of a PUBLIC property is admissible when an action is being performed against a set law or rule.
However, if person X wishes to record someone/something in public, it is mandatory for that person to gain permission from the characters involved in the video clipping. Else, they have to blur the faces involved.
When person X is on his/her own private property, he/she is by all means free to record a video or audio.
A common rebuttal to being filmed in a park or a similar public property is the Fundamental Right to Privacy. This is also termed as the Expectation of Privacy. This asserts that every person is entitled to a sense of privacy wherein they expect a safe and unrecorded surrounding.
However, an integral component of this law is always left out. To satisfy the prerequisites of this concept, the person who expects privacy must not be in an area that is publicly viewable. Since a park is definitely publicly used, this principle stands null and void in this context.
Another case pertaining to this issue is that of a third party tapping into a conversation between two other parties. If the recording party is not a part of the conversation that he/she is recording, then the footage is inadmissible in any court and is an illegal act.
Call recording also poses a similar conundrum. However, law scholars have reached a somewhat concrete way of determining the validity of said recordings. It can be consolidated into one word. Consent.
Almost all the countries in the world have a one-party or two-party consent law. California, for example, has a two-party consent law. This means that if person A wants to record a conversation between him and Person B, the permission of Person B is required for the validity of the clip in court.
New York adopts a one-party consent law. It's pretty obvious as to what happens in this system. A call or meeting can be recorded with the consent of only one of the parties.
This legal principle has raised a lot of ambiguity among legal eagles. Hopefully, a more concrete solution is reached to untangle this complex web of subjectiveness.
The difficulty arises because of its subjective nature. The situational differences in the various cases pose a million problems. Thanks for reading:)