When it’s okay to record public officials

When it’s okay to record public officials

Q: I belong to a HOA that is a California Non-profit Corporation.  Last week I went to talk with the on site manager at his office. He use his desk computer to video tape with audio) our meeting without my knowledge.

His office is inside our Clubhouse, I think some were in the Clubhouse there is a sign that read Video surveillance.

Is this legal?

A: Penal Code section 632 makes it illegal to record a “confidential communication,” in person or over the telephone, without the consent of all parties involved.

It is not clear whether your meeting with the on-site manager in his office was “confidential.”  The statute defines “confidential communication” to include “any communication carried on in circumstances as may reasonably indicate that any party to the communication desires it to be confined to the parties thereto.”  The California Supreme court has held that this definition means a conversation is confidential where the parties to the conversation reasonably expect that their conversation is not being overheard or recorded.

In your circumstance, if the conversation was in the manager’s office with no one else present and where no one else could overhear it, the conversation may have been confidential.  The question would then be whether the posting of signs that “video surveillance” was conducted on site would be enough to mean that anyone on site should have reasonably expected their conversations would be recorded by the video surveillance — and/or whether holding a conversation on a site where “video surveillance” is posted would constitute consent to record.  Since video surveillance can be conducted without recording sound, it is possible that knowledge of video surveillance would not be the same as knowing or consenting to the recording of the conversation.  See People v. Drennan, 84 Cal. App. 4th 1349, 1359 (2000) (video surveillance did not violate section 632 because it did not record sound).