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Audio surveillance in hospital
December 2, 2020
Audio surveillance in hospital
            I have a question about audio recording in a reception area from a Hospital client last week in NY.  I basically told them that it was pretty much not legal due to Federal laws regarding Eavesdropping.  The Director of Security, a retired Police Chief, responded that he thought that I was mistaken.  So in an effort to prove my point I went to the K&K website and looked up what you have posted for both NY and Federal.  Quite honestly, as a Layman, there was nothing there that I was able to interpret that would give me any concrete guidance.  Maybe a Lawyer might be able to glean some direction from the quoted statutes but this dopey alarm guy just can’t find any direction.
            Would you please be kind enough to post a translation in alarm guy English to help me out?
            Audio laws are fairly easy to understand, though application of the law to specific scenarios may be confusing.  The simple answer is that there are one and all party states; either only one person to the conversation or all persons who are part of the conversation must consent to mechanical listening or recording of the conversation.
            Let’s position a listening and recording device in the ceiling above the hospital receptionist’s desk.  New York is a one party state.  The receptionist has consented to audio surveillance in her employment contract.  Someone comes to the desk to talk to the receptionist.  Since the receptionist has consented already the conversation can be listened to and recorded.  In a two party state they both have to consent, so the person approaching would have to consent, which can be done right then and there on the recording. Anticipating your next question, a sign posted warning of the listening and recording device is not a substitute for consent if the person keeps talking.
            One other issue that is pertinent because you mention that this is a hospital setting.  HIPPA confidentiality laws may apply, and that is separate from surveillance laws.  You won’t have that in a non-medical setting.  Also, the HIPPA compliance is the medical personnel’s problem, not the alarm company’s responsibility. 
            Here is another scenario to consider.  Not one but two or more people approach the receptionist’s desk.  The receptionist has already consented to the surveillance, but the others have not consented.  Now two of the others engage in conversation directed to each other; the receptionist is not an intended participant in the conversation and the other two are trying to be discrete in their conversation making it clear that they prefer the receptionist not be part of that conversation.  The audio equipment picks up the conversation and records it or someone is listening.  That would violate the audio law, sign or no sign.  
            I guess you’re not so dumb after all, at least not about this.

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Ken Kirschenbaum,Esq
Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum PC
Attorneys at Law
200 Garden City Plaza
Garden City, NY 11530
516 747 6700 x 301