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January 1, 2011

Eyes on the Notary

Filed under: Ken Edelstein — Tags: , , — admin @ 10:37 am

Eyes on the Notary
Actually, they are electronic eyes. The ever present surveillance cameras are everywhere. That footage you watched on the evening news is a prime example. But, let me back up a bit, and first discuss some older technology. Pictures. On a few occasions over the years, I have been asked to permit the borrower to photograph me. I tell them it’s unnecessary, my picture is on my web site. They usually persist, perhaps wanting a photo of me in their house in case the silverware is found to be missing after my departure. Kidding aside, they want to take a picture of the notary. Often I am called the “closer” or similar; I always correct that misunderstanding.

Here in population dense Manhattan, where I live; cameras are everywhere. The police have them on high poles to record traffic infractions and the public in general. Private buildings “log” who enters; they also have cameras in front to monitor (and record) what occurs on the sidewalk. There is nothing anyone can do to avoid being recorded. I venture a guess that my license plate is recorded dozens of times going to and fro even the closest assignment. Many homes with infants have “nanny cameras” that allow mom to see and hear junior; a good use of the technology.

However, it is the surreptitious in a private home that seems to me to be going too far. Some security systems are set to record perpetually. They keep “stuff” for a week or so, and then reuse the disk space for new video. It kinda makes sense, in a home invasion you probably will not have a chance to turn on the camera. I am sure many of my, and your, signings have been recorded. Is that a good thing? My first thought is that, knowing I don’t do bad things, the video would provide to me proof of no misbehavior. But, there is always the possibility to “edit” the recording, and thus make it show a false scenario. Amazing things can be done with video editing.

As in the “arms race” where each new development is superseded by a still newer methodology; I ask if the notary should also record. I know, this is a toxic subject with no possibility of a right solution. I choose to not record signing sessions. There probably are notaries with discreet tiny tape recorders who capture the audio. They probably want to have proof that they did not “cross the line” in performing their duties to the highest standards. Claims that they “pushed” the deal, or were naughty in other respects can be defended. To my knowledge, from various notary sites, this issue has never really been discussed.

We live in a litigious world, and the tools of audio and video recordings show up in TV coverage and in courtrooms. I think the signing agent has a right to know if they are being recorded. But, it would feel awkward to ask “are you recording this signing”. In a similar manner, asking for the borrower’s permission to audio tape is equally weird. Thus, we have an interesting situation. Some homes are recording all activities without notification. And, there has to be some notaries out there who don’t ask, but proceed to record the session, again without notice or approval.

Don’t look to me for solutions, I have none. It’s a privacy issue, a subject that we deal with daily as we preserve the confidentiality of some very sensitive documents. That, we understand and are good at. But, the issue of stealth recording remains, and is rarely if ever discussed. This blog entry is to open the topic for discussion. There has to be a solution or procedure that addresses the issue. I ask for your thoughts and comments. I’m not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, some really smart people are reading this. Please, comment and open a dialogue on this ignored topic.


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