Can Retail Stores Videotape Their Dressing Rooms?

Privacy concerns and the law in Illinois

By Benjy Schirm, J.D. | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on April 4, 2023

Use these links to jump to different sections:

An incredible night is coming—prom, the party of the year for many young people, and a boon for retail shops everywhere. As promgoers seek out the perfect suit or dress for their special night, they wade into clothing store dressing rooms to try on the possibilities. Unbeknownst to them, fitting rooms may be watched by security cameras.

And the use of cameras may be perfectly legal.


What Laws Are in Place for Our Protection?

The Federal privacy law that governs these actions is the Video Voyeurism Act, which prohibits actions that have “the intent to capture an image of a private area of an individual without their consent, and knowingly does so under circumstances in which the individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy.”

Illinois state law (ILCS 702 §5/26-4) makes it unlawful for any person to knowingly make or transmit a video record “of another person without that person’s consent in a restroom, tanning bed, tanning salon, locker room, changing room, or hotel bedroom.”

What Is This Expectation of Privacy?

There are two possibilities that this federal law covers:

  • Circumstances in which a reasonable person would believe that he or she could disrobe in privacy, without being concerned that an image of a private area of the individual was being captured;
  • Circumstances in which a reasonable person would believe that a private area would not be visible to the public, regardless of whether that person is in a public or private place.

This law would seem to outlaw any recording or capturing of anyone in a store dressing room. So how do businesses get away with filming customers in their changing rooms?

Most states, including Illinois, are operating under a conditional requirement of the type and manner of the recording—meaning retailers are obligated to post a notice that you will be videotaped or monitored while using their dressing rooms. This is often called informed consent. If a customer wants to use a dressing room, they are consenting to being watched.

Reports from the National Retail Federation and other organizations state that shoplifting costs business owners tens of billions of dollars annually. Clearly, stores use security systems to monitor dressing rooms to prevent theft. But penalties for video surveillance, taping—or even observing—for any purpose other than loss prevention range from fines to imprisonment for up to one year in jail.

What Can I Do if I Suspect These Other Purposes Happening in a Store?

If you suspect that you have been monitored by hidden cameras or surveillance cameras in a dressing room area for any purpose other than preventing theft and an invasion of privacy has occurred, you should contact a reputable personal injury attorney.

For more information on this area of law, see our overviews of personal injury and sexual abuse.

What do I do next?

Enter your location below to get connected with a qualified attorney today.

Find top lawyers with confidence

The Super Lawyers patented selection process is peer influenced and research driven, selecting the top 5% of attorneys to the Super Lawyers lists each year. We know lawyers and make it easy to connect with them.

Find a lawyer near you