Everyone has a story about a bad neighbor or two. Maybe they like to throw parties that go late into the night. Maybe they keep an impressive collection of junk cars and broken dryers on their front lawn. Maybe they stop you every time you leave your condo and lock you into hour-long conversations when you’re already running behind, Doris.
But one particular bad neighbor stands out — the extra paranoid guy with the array of security cameras pointed in every direction. What exactly is he trying to keep an eye on? Is it you?
Pro Tip: If your neighbor is putting up security cameras, maybe you need to think about doing the same. If you’re in the market, check out our guide to the best security cameras of 2023.
You might be wondering if you can block your neighbor’s security cameras, or if what they’re doing is even legal in the first place. Isn’t it an invasion of your privacy to be recorded by this weirdo every time you check the mail? We’re going to answer all of those questions and more, so don’t worry.
Let’s start with the legal question because that’s going to determine your next steps.
The Legality of Security Cameras
As uncomfortable as it might make you, your neighbor is well within their right to put up security cameras on their property, even if they happen to be pointing toward your property. There is some nuance to this, but it all gets down to their purposes for having the cameras, and your reasonable expectation of privacy.
Your neighbor, just like you, is a property owner. They get to choose how they would like to protect their property from would-be thieves, just like you do. They might opt to build a fence or put in an alarm system; or they might outfit their doors and windows with smart locks and sensors. In fact, they might’ve just opted to put in a camera or two. As long as the primary purpose for the cameras is security, legally speaking, they’re free to do whatever they want.
The next issue is your expectation of privacy. Simply put, if you’re out in public, you have none. You can be recorded by anyone at any time, as long as it’s not in gross violation of your rights. That means if the area being recorded by your neighbor’s cameras is within public view — your front yard that’s visible from the street, for instance — you have very little ground to stand on if you choose to ask them to remove it.
Pro Tip: If their camera records audio, there might be a bit of a loophole depending on the state you live in. Some jurisdictions are two-party consent states when it comes to audio recording. If you don’t explicitly agree to have your voice recorded in a private area in one of these states, what they’re doing could be illegal. That said, we’re not lawyers; we’re security experts.
As we mentioned, there is some gray area here. If your neighbor put a camera on a 10-foot pole to see over your fence and record what’s going on in your backyard pool, you have a bit more room to complain. There’s no real security reason for that camera, and it’s broaching on your expectation of privacy. If you can demonstrate this type of overstep, you might be able to legally compel them to remove the camera.
So with that in mind, let’s discuss what you can do.
How to Block Your Neighbor’s Security Camera
Now that you understand the legality of your neighbor’s cameras, let’s talk about what you can do to rectify the situation. We’re going to start with the simplest solution first.
Talk to Your Neighbor
You might be rolling your eyes right now, but hear us out. Most people don’t want to be jerks, and your neighbor might not realize how uncomfortable their cameras are making you. Collect yourself and knock on their door.
Some advice, though: Don’t approach the situation with hostility. Instead, go on a fact-finding mission. Ask them why they’ve installed the cameras, and if they realize they’re pointed at your property. Let them know the situation is making you a little uneasy, and tell them you want to come to a compromise that makes everyone happy. If your neighbor is a reasonable person, this might be all you need to do.
Pro Tip: According to psychological research, most people don’t realize when they’re being offensive. If the offensive behavior is pointed out, most people are likely to become embarrassed and reverse course.
Now, we give this advice knowing full well that some neighbors are going to be unreasonable. If the situation is delicate, or if you fear you might be unsafe speaking with your neighbor face to face, obviously skip this step. Move on to No. 2.
Block the Camera’s View
Take a look at where the camera is pointing, and try and get a sense of what it can see. Is there any way you can plant some hedges or maybe extend your fence to prevent it from seeing onto your property? Can you get some better blinds, maybe, to prevent it from seeing into your living room? Hey, you were thinking about building that pergola anyway – maybe now is a good time to start that project. Just make sure that whatever modifications you make are on your own property.
Pro Tip: Keep in mind that a lot of modern cameras have extremely wide-angle lenses and long ranges, meaning they’re seeing a lot more than what’s directly in front of them. Read more about this in our review of Lorex’s security cameras.
Seek the Help of a Mediator
If tensions are high between you and your neighbor, there might be community services available to help you mitigate the situation. Look into local conflict resolution and mediation services. These are often nonprofit organizations that seek to intervene in the early stages of a dispute to avoid escalation or the involvement of authorities.
Speak to Local Law Enforcement
If nothing else works, you might need to get in touch with your local police. Call the non-emergency number, and ask them what they recommend. Keep in mind, though, that this will likely escalate tensions further between you and your neighbor, and unless they are doing something blatantly illegal, the police aren’t going to be able to help you.
Pro Tip: Your city might have non-emergency public safety officers that can help deal with these types of situations. Look into your resources before calling the officers in blue.
Note this is just general advice. Since every situation is unique, it’s all about getting creative with the solution. Before we conclude, though, we need to tell you what not to do.
Don’t Do Anything Stupid
Regardless of how you feel about them, those cameras are your neighbor’s property. If you tamper with them, vandalize them, or destroy them, it’s your door the police will be knocking on. And guess what? Your neighbor is going to have plenty of evidence it was you.
The same goes with “hacks” you’re going to read about in online forums. Yeah, you can maybe blind an infrared sensor with a laser pointer or LED, but how exactly are you going to rig that up? How can you make sure it’s shining directly into the camera’s sensor? Do you want to set up a super powerful spotlight that shines directly onto your neighbor’s security camera at all times? Seems like a huge headache waiting to happen, and it probably won’t work anyway.
Pro Tip: A lot of “advice” will tell you to “block the infrared sensor” by shining light at it. This won’t work on a lot of modern cameras since most of them now use color night vision. Check out our review of the Arlo Pro 3 to learn more.
And finally, no, you’re not going to somehow “jam” their security camera. Anyone trying to sell you a security camera “jammer” is probably a “scammer.” You can purchase Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cellular disruptors from sketchy sources. However even if they work — and that’s a big maybe — they’re likely not going to be powerful enough to do anything but mess up your own network unless you’re paying thousands of dollars for them. Oh, and they’re also super illegal, as per FCC regulations. So don’t even go there.
Final Thoughts on Blocking Security Cameras
So here’s the long and short of it. Unless your neighbor is deliberately trying to spy on you — and you can prove it — there’s probably nothing you can do to force them to take down their cameras.
Your best bet is to talk with them face to face, or if that doesn’t work, think outside the box about how you can shield your property from their camera’s view.