In this article, we have gathered all the information that you need to know about the legality of spy pens to answer one very important question: are spy pens legal? Well, let’s find out.
When it comes to using spy devices, it is important to know whether we are breaking any laws. Often times, missions require spies to act on the edge of the law, but if you don’t have an intelligence agency watching your back, then it might be best if you avoid any legal troubles.
While spy pens can be useful tools in every spy or private detective’s arsenal, it is important to know whether they are legal.
What is a spy pen?
Spy pens are nifty little recording tools that look just like a regular pen. However, and despite also functioning as a regular pen, spy pens have little cameras that allow them to record both audio and video, or just audio, depending on the model.
By pressing the button, the pen starts recording, saving the recorded footage to its internal memory unit or to a memory card. With another click of the button, the recording stops.
These pens are great because they give users a recording device without letting people know that they are being recorded.
Reasons to use a spy pen
Spy pens are great if you need to record someone (or something) without giving it away that you are recording them. These devices are more effective when used in offices or other places where pens are commonplace.
The best thing about most spy pens is that they fit snugly into your coat’s front pocket while still allowing you to record. Most spy pens have their lenses on the top part of the pen, meaning the lens stays outside when you attach it via the clip to a coat or shirt pocket.
These devices are great if you want to record meetings or other office conversations. They can also be useful to gather proof about something or to record university lectures. However, you need to know that it might not always be legal to do so. But keep reading to learn why.
Main disadvantages of spy pens
While spy pens are great hidden recording devices, they also have a few drawbacks that might be necessary to consider.
For one, these pens are often bulky and stand out. Compared to your average ballpoint pen, spy pens are more than twice as thick.
Also, while they might be great for recording workplace conversations, spy pens might not be ideal if the camera angle matters. Remember that, in most cases, the pen will be in your pocket, which already gives it a somewhat awkward angle. Adding to that, if you need to move the camera, it is necessary that you physically move your torso in the direction you want to film.
Battery life can also be a problem. Smaller spy pens aren’t able to record for a long time, so you will need to make your recording count.
Are spy pens legal?
While spy pens themselves are legal, using them can be an entirely different story. First of all, it all depends on what exactly you want to record. The law differs greatly depending on whether you want to record video footage or just audio.
When it comes to video recording, the law is pretty lax. This doesn’t mean you are allowed to record whatever you want—only that the law is less strict than when it comes to audio recordings.
For video recordings, a good way to get an idea of whether it is illegal to record the situation is by considering if the recorded party has a reasonable expectation of privacy or not. If the person is in a private environment (such as their own home), then it is illegal to record them. However, you could record them in a public location.
Audio is a different matter. Most spy pens offer the ability to record video without audio because you might need a person’s consent to record a conversation of which they are a part, even if it happens in a public place.
Only one of the parties to the conversation needs to consent to the recording in one-party consent states, whereas both parties must be aware that the conversation is being recorded in two-party consent states.
Using spy pens within your own business
Besides public places, you can also freely use spy pens on your property—assuming you don’t record people in locations where they assume they have privacy or that you don’t record their conversations without their consent.
In a way, using a spy pen is no different from using a CCTV camera. The main difference lies in the fact that with a CCTV camera, people know that they are being recorded. This might not seem like such a big deal, but it changes their perception of privacy, which could make hidden recordings illegal, even if you own the place.
Using spy pens to record other people without their knowledge
If you are recording in a public place (and are not recording audio) then you can use your spy pen without having to worry about breaking any laws. As you probably would expect, it is not legal to use a hidden device to monitor someone in their own home or in other places where they have reasonable expectations of privacy.
Recording their conversations is also a big no-no. Unless you have their consent (or the consent of both parties), recording conversations is highly illegal and could land you in trouble, depending on how you use the recordings.
At the end of the day, spy pens are an excellent tool that every spy should have. However, it is important that they understand their limitations and that their actions might potentially have legal implications.