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Your rights when recording

Know your rights!!!

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Recording – your rights
Private place
Phone calls

​Recording the police – your rights

Can I record the police in a public place?

Yes. Everywhere in Australia, the law says you can record in public, even if the police tell you to stop, but you need to be aware of your legal obligations.

You can record police interactions in public. There are no general restrictions on recording in public places in Australia.

You do not have to stop recording if asked to do so. The police cannot confiscate your phone or can they delete any images or recordings from your phone. 

Generally, you can also record conversations or activities that are ‘public’ even if they happen on private property. Look at the section below, ‘Can I record the police on private property ‘, for more information about the difference between a public and a private conversation.

There are some important exceptions you need to know. Even though a person may be in a public place, they may be engaged in a private activity or conversation.

A private activity in a public place would include using a public toilet, or getting changed in a public change room. Obviously, you cannot record in these places.  See the section ‘What if someone records me without consent or shares a recording of me?’ for more information.

Do I have to tell the police I am recording them?

Not if you are in public. Everywhere in Australia, the law says you can freely record in public, even if the police tell you to stop, but you need to be aware of the legal obligations in this section.

It is a bit more complicated if you are on private property or the conversation or activity is private. Look at the section ‘Can I record the police on private property’ for more information.


Keep in mind, though, one of the reasons for recording police is to improve their behaviour and stop harassment. If the police know they are being recorded, this may be enough to stop any unwanted or unlawful behaviour, but sometimes it can anger them. It is important to hold people in authority accountable for their actions, and it can achieve real change. But in the moment, keeping your friends, family and yourself safe is the most important thing. Even if you have a legal right to do something, never put yourself or your property in danger. Always de-escalate a situation by following orders and moving back if requested. Standing away from immediate action and observing is safer and more effective than using a camera in someone’s face like a weapon.

What if the police ask me to move back or move on?

Move back

While you are recording, you must keep a safe distance, not obstruct traffic or police, and obey reasonable police instructions, like moving back if asked.


You can keep recording while you do this. It might be a good idea to point the camera down for a moment to record the steps back you are taking.


How far back is reasonable? There is no exact rule, just be sensible and use your good judgement.

Move on

‘Move on’ orders are more formal powers for the police to direct you to leave a public place. The rules are a bit different across Australia, but generally the police have this power if they reasonably believe that a person:

  • has committed, or is about to commit, an offence

  • is blocking traffic or other people

  • is in danger, or making someone else feel in danger

  • is stopping other people enjoying or using the public place


Just like any incident in a public place, you can record your interaction subject to your obligations.

Can I record the police on private property?

If you are on private property, you need to think about whether the conversation or activity is intended to be ‘private’ or not because different rules will apply.


‘Public conversations’ and ‘private conversations’

It is a private conversation or activity if the people involved do not reasonably want or expect to be overheard by anyone else who is not part of the conversation.


Activities that occur in a public place or in a location or vehicle which can reasonably be observed from a public place are not considered private.


Conversations that occur in a public place could potentially still be considered private. It depends on whether the parties reasonably expect the conversation to be overheard by someone else. This may, in turn, depend on factors such as the volume of their speech and whether there is anyone else within earshot.


It is a public conversation or activity if the people involved do not have an expectation of privacy. If they are in a room full of people at a party or on the front lawn surrounded by a group, they probably know other people will see or hear them.

Recording public conversations/activities on private property

Generally, you can record conversations or activities that are ‘public’ even if they happen on private property.

For example, say you are at a friend’s house, you have permission to be there, and your friend is being questioned by police. If the police and your friend know that you are there and they are not trying to have a private conversation (for example, by whispering), then you can record the police speaking to your friend as a ‘public’ conversation.


Recording private conversations/activities on private property

You need to be more careful recording ‘private’ conversations or activities – and the rules differ in different states and territories.

Generally, suppose you are a part of the conversation or activity and have the permission of everyone involved. In that case, you are okay to record.

The situation is different if you are not involved in the conversation or people have not given you permission to record their private conversation. An example is if you are hiding in another room, watching the police question your friend, and the police do not know you are there. If you make a recording in this situation, you must get legal advice before using the recording. Often it is okay, but you can get in trouble if you don’t comply with the special rules that may apply, and the laws are different across Australia.

Make sure you also understand the rights of the people you are recording. See the section  ‘What if someone records me without consent, or shares a recording of me?’

Can I record phone calls?

You can record phone calls if all the people on the call know it is being recorded and give consent.
Phone calls would usually be private conversations. The people on the call would not expect other people to be listening in. See the section above  Recording private conversations/activities on private property’ for the rules that apply to recording private conversations.


Keep in mind also that laws that apply across Australia make it generally unlawful to use a wiretap or other ‘interception’ device to record phone calls.

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