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Jan 24, 2012 09:35 PM

Would it bother you if a restaurant surrepitiously recorded your dining experience?

Would it?

What if a restaurant made it a practice to record -- audio and video -- each diner's experience, incognito, so as to later replay the footage to gather information on their customers in order to provide for a better dining experience.

Would this be OK with you?

Conversely, would it be less (or more) OK if you were told in advance that this recording was taking place?

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  1. I definitely would not be ok with restaurants recording video and audio footage while I eat, incognito. Where I live it is illegal to do so without first obtaining permission from whoever is being recorded. Even if it was to "provide a better dining experience" I would not be comfortable with this.

    If I was told in advance the recording would be taking place I think I would find myself unlikely to return to that particular establishment. I would wear it the first time, if I was unaware of the retaurants practice before arriving (likely for me as I do tend to be impulsive with dining out), but I wouldn't feel comfortable about returning. We have some pretty ordinary practices already occuring in some Australian bars and pubs (thankfully nowhere that I frequent!) where personal information (including fingerprint and retina scans) and recorded video/audio footage is being taken and utilised. Slightly different ballgame, but I still feel uncomfortable about it all. I would prefer to retain an illusion of privacy when I'm eating out.

    6 Replies
    1. re: TheHuntress

      So now you have piqued my interest, Huntress! Can you talk a little bit about fingerprinting and retina scans in Australia? What possible reason could there be for that?

      1. re: Heidi cooks and bakes

        That surprised and intrigued me as well....

        1. re: Heidi cooks and bakes

          Yep, that is an excellent question and we're all asking exactly the same thing. It's no secret we're a really laid back culture and when we're out and I've noticed from what I read on Chowhound, talking to Americans, etc. that we do not demand, nor expect anywhere near the level of perfection that is sought in the US. We really do have a "she'll be right, mate" attitude to most things, we view security as an unnnecessary nuisance and if things go pear shaped it just becomes a funny story to tell at the next gathering.

          So for establishments to start scanning drivers licences, fingerprints and retinas was a really huge WTF!?! for many people. It would seem (and I'm only guessing) that most places that do this are owned and run by bikie and/or other gangs. They claim that it's to prevent (and easily identify) alcohol fuelled violence, but seriously, better training on behalf of the bar staff and security could prevent that. It's no secret we're a heavy drinking culture and some people are just idiots, but it really doesn't seem to justify the fact that you need more ID to enter a bar than you do to enter the country. I live inner city and have a preference for small wine and cocktail bars, so I am yet to encounter this level of security, however I do know people living in the suburbs that go through this procedure for a drink at their local pub. Sublime ridiculousness on a huge scale and frankly I would not give these establishments my business.

          1. re: TheHuntress

            yeahhh...I'm thinking staying at home sounds pretty good -- privacy issues aside, who wants to go to that much hassle to have a beer?

            1. re: sunshine842

              Exactly. I'm lucky enough to live 5 minutes away from a wonderful area with many of my city's best restaurants and bars. They attract a far more interesting clientele, who can drink without the need for behaving stupidly or erractically after a dozen or so drinks and are equipped with better drinks and awesome barstaff. I think my top 3 favourite barmen work along this strip, it's excellent :)

            2. re: TheHuntress

              Those are definitely places to stay away from Now I understand!

        2. A thousand times no. If asked first I would leave and never come back while also reporting them to the police, BBB and newspapers and watch the place go out of business before sunrise.

          I'm curious what prompted this question as I can't think of any normal person being ok with this or it being legal in any 1st world country.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Jzone

            "If asked first I would leave and never come back while also reporting them to the police, BBB and newspapers and watch the place go out of business before sunrise. "

            Huh? If they asked everyone before they recorded them it wouldnt be illegal at all.

            1. re: twyst

              From original post
              "Conversely, would it be less (or more) OK if you were told in advance that this recording was taking place?"

              That's the part I was responding to. If I wasn't told, I probably wouldn't know about it... right?

              1. re: twyst

                Now, if they asked, how accurate would the reactions of the patrons actually be? I cannot imagine that those tapes would be of any use, other than to send to whomever is trying to reproduce and market "Candid Camera."

                Let's just say that I know that people react much differently, if they know that a camera is rolling.


            2. Not okay. Not okay at all. While a restaurant is a public place, I have not waived all my privacy rights upon entering the door. My conversations are MINE and the restaurant has no right to record these. I'm less perturbed by the video, but only relatively so; I would not want to be recorded on video either.

              21 Replies
              1. re: CanadaGirl

                "While a restaurant is a public place, I have not waived all my privacy rights upon entering the door."
                In a strictly legal sense (under American law - I don't know much about Canadian law), I'm not convinced that's true to the same extent you think it is. The American legal barometer for cases like this seems to be whether you had a 'reasonable expectation of privacy.' The fact that the restaurant has open seating and is a public place would tend to make me think that, legally speaking, you do not. OTOH, it would be illegal for a restaurant to record you in the restroom or record your conversation if you were inside a phone booth with a shut door (as if those still existed).

                Admittedly, I am not a lawyer, and I would welcome the opinion of one if he or she happens to be reading.

                1. re: cowboyardee

                  There is no expectation of privacy at a private restaurant -- in other words, the restaurant owner would not need a search warrant of any kind to record or track their diners while they are in the restaurant.

                  By entering the restaurant, the diner has essentially consented to this type of "search". (Not consented to all searches -- e.g. body cavity search -- but certain intrusions of privacy are waived by being a guest at a restaurant).

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    Unfortunately you are wrong, please see my reply to cowboyardee.

                    Furthermore, the restaurant owner could not get a searchg warrant. Search warrants are issued by judicial authorities to LAW ENFORCEMENT after a valid application made for cause, NOT private citizens such as the restaurant owner.

                    Entry alone, is not consent, the owner must give notice (posted sign of possible security recording). No notice, no informed consent means no consent.

                    This does not apply in places such as banks where recording is provided for by statute in most jurisdictions.

                    BTW> Canada Girl, all of my responses apply to US law, which varies by jurisdiction. No state may restrict civil rights more than the federal law, but individual states (such as MA, CT, NY, CA) can have more liberal civil rights than thse mandated by Federal law.

                    1. re: bagelman01

                      I would say it is "fortunate" they are wrong... no? :)

                    2. re: ipsedixit

                      I am sorry, but will have to see the statutes on that.

                      It's like a bathroom in a private restaurant. How much expectation of privacy would a patron have there?

                      How many cases have ended up with retailers paying hefty fines, for video tapping their dressing rooms, though they claim that it's only for security against theft?

                      I am just not buying into that argument, until one can cite chapter and verse, and then declare which states they apply to - talking the USA here.


                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        It's common law (i.e. case law), not statutory.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          Common Law where. Can you cite that?

                          Somehow, I highly doubt it, but am ready to be educated.


                          1. re: Bill Hunt


                            That's just for your own edification.

                            Like I said up above, I don't want this thread to turn into a legal discussion. Not interested in anyone's legal opinion on this issue. Just personal ones.

                        2. re: Bill Hunt

                          actually no cameras/taping in restrooms, even the most public venues, like sports arenas, libraries, street festival port-a-potties, etc, is taken really seriously! this extends to locker-rooms and similar in health clubs, ymcas, schools, etc. and many/most of them require you to check your cellphone-camera before entry ime. i don't know the legalese but i believe the penalties are, or can be, quite high for this type of offense.

                          1. re: soupkitten

                            I've had contracts with health clubs that asserted THEIR right under the contract (legal or not) to record members' activities:

                            example: "As part of its normal business operations, xxx ... reserves the right to access, monitor, record and/or transfer images of the club and/or locker room, to use any recording devices in the club or locker rooms, ... as needed, to protect the health and safety ..."

                            1. re: racer x

                              Monitoring the checking in, and out is one thing. Taping you in the shower, the steam room, the sauna, or in the massage suite? Well that might be something different.

                              BTW - was that you in the tanning booth, that I saw on the Internet?


                      2. re: cowboyardee

                        I'm not a lawyer either, but Canada has some pretty strict privacy laws that generally require individuals to consent to the information being collected and also that they be informed what will be done with that information.


                        1. re: cowboyardee

                          I am a lawyer................(don't hold that against me VBG)

                          While you do not have an expectation of privacy when dining in the middle of a crowded dining room, you do have an expectation of privacy when requesting a table in a secluded corner or a private alcove or a private room.

                          Noiw this expectation of privacy does not preclude your observation by the naked eye (includes regular eyeglasses/contacts) or being overheard by the naked ear (included hearing aids). It does however preclude the use of enhanced vision (e.g. telphoto lenses) and listening amphlification devices). It allows the chance sighting and being overheard by staff and patrons, but does not permit voice and sight recording witholut your permission and certainly not the rebroadcast to others (such as a training session with staff and consultants).

                          Some jurisdictions allow video surveillance for security purposes, but require posted notice and that the recordings be erased after X number of days.

                            1. re: bagelman01

                              I am a lawyer................(don't hold that against me VBG)

                              Funny. So am I.

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                I knew I liked you for multiple reasons........................

                            2. re: cowboyardee

                              Yes, "Reasonable Expectation of Privacy," such as going to the bathroom, the dressing room, dining with the person of your choice, and the list goes on, and on.

                              Now, if the restaurant can talk a judge into issuing an order for that surveillance, then things might be different, but heck, even law enforcement has issues doing that.

                              Nah, just does not wash.


                            3. re: CanadaGirl

                              And my table manners are mine and not to be put on display.....

                              Spot on response. Legally, they can't do that.

                              1. re: CanadaGirl

                                A restaurant is not a public place. It is as private as my home. It is my premise and I can ask you to leave, as the owner, becasue I feel like it. You have no "right" to be there unless I say it is okay.

                                1. re: Siobhan


                                  In most of these United States your statement is NOT correct, or complete. A restaurant may not be a public place (public ownership), BUT because of its government isued licenses and letting the general public in (as opposed to some members only venues) it is a place of PUBLIC ACCOMODATION and as such is subject to many laws and regulations.

                                  You as the owner may bar an individual or ask him/her to leave, but that action may NOT be based on discrimination against legally protected group (Race, Alienage and National Origin under Federal law, and even gender, sexual orientation under som state laws).

                                  So, If you bar Joe, because you don't like Joe, fine. But if you have barred Joe, and Sam and Gary and Mark and they are all African-Americans, a pattern may be realized and you may be subject to prosecution, lose your business or alcohol licenses, etcf.

                                  This was just an example based on Race, it could be a group of people whose ancestors all came from Country X, etc.
                                  You don't have to have a handicapped accessible bathroom or parking space at your home, but may be required by law to have one at your restaurant.

                                  A restaurant is NOT as private as your home, the restaurant patrons are on the premises as business invitees, not social guests. This creates liabilities and levels of care for the owner which differ from a homeowner and their social guests. Ever hear of a dram shop law???????????

                                  1. re: bagelman01

                                    If I owned a restaurant could I legally bar attorneys?

                              2. You have got to be kidding - NO! If they told me ahead I'd leave.

                                1. Uh, no. Not okay. What sort of "information" would they gather anyway?