We’ve been testing home security cameras for three years now. They can be powerful tools, but if not used properly, they can also tread a thin line between safety and an invasion of privacy. These four cameras will allow you to check on your babysitter’s behavior without having the overbearing eyes of Big Brother on your mantel.
The Best Nanny Cams: Summed Up
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How We Chose the Best Nanny Cams
Top-notch camera qualities
We applied the same key criteria we used for home security cameras to nanny cams.
- 1080p resolution
- Around 130-degree field of view
- Mobile alerts
- Clear night vision
- Two-way audio (so you can speak to your nanny, child, or babysitter)
- Variety of integrations (Amazon Alexa, Google Home, HomeKit) for ease of use and room for home security/automation functions
There’s nothing exceptionally special about a nanny cam that sets it apart from a home security camera, minus the fact that you might want it to be slightly more discreet. “There’s really no such thing as the ‘best’ nanny cam, because a camera is just a tool,” Monica Eaton-Cardone, owner, co-founder, and COO of Chargebacks 911, told us in a statement. “You need to find the right tool for your specific family situation, and that might not always include a thousand different hi-tech bells and whistles,” Eaton-Cardone said.
Nanny cams — like all indoor security cameras — are prone to revealing sensitive information inside the home. Hacking of this sensitive information isn’t uncommon, either. (Perhaps you remember those chilling instances of hackers communicating to families through Nest cameras earlier this year.)
While it’s still largely up to you to make sure you’re using these devices safely and securely, it’s important to make sure the company is doing its part. “The great irony is, we buy nanny cams because we’re so concerned about our family’s safety and security — but these cams can also provide secret access to predators, voyeurs and criminals,” Eaton-Cardone said. “No device is 100 percent secure, and you’ve always got to be careful.”
For this reason, we looked for security camera companies that make bold, clear statements to protecting your information as it travels from your phone to the companies’ servers. This includes https transport layer security (TLS), so that your information travels securely to the cloud from the camera or your phone, and making sure your contents are hidden in transit with a secure encryption method (AES 128-bit encryption).
Having ample cloud storage — especially free cloud storage — is another key element of a nanny cam that you don’t want to overlook. You want to be able to access footage if you need to raise concerns about a babysitter’s or visitor’s behavior, especially when it concerns your children. Most of our top picks offer a wide enough window for cloud storage that largely prevents you from having to pay a monthly fee (as long as you stay on top of recordings and download before the period ends).
The Four Best Nanny Cams
- Adjustable point of view Overall camera quality Cloud storage Data security
- No Apple HomeKit integration Durability
Why we chose it
Adjustable point of view
The Wyze Cam pan offers mounting and viewpoint flexibility. Depending on your needs, you can get a full 360-degree horizontal view of the intended area in as little as three seconds — all from your phone. So, rather than only seeing a section of your living room, the Wyze Cam Pan packs an all-in-one punch by allowing you to rotate its base remotely (360 degrees horizontally and 93 degrees vertically). This means you can get a view of the living room, kitchen, stairway — and any other point of interest with one small camera. Others, like Google Nest Cams, have immovable bases, so what you see is what you get (and, typically, this is only a 130-degree horizontal range). The added flexibility could prove beneficial if you don’t want to overwhelm guests by scattering several cameras throughout your main living spaces but still want to optimize visibility.
“From the device, it was easy to manipulate the view as long as the app wasn’t lagging. Since I’m in a one-bedroom apartment, the device could show me basically my whole living area – the front door, kitchen, and living room, so it was really all I would need. “ Wyze Cam Pan tester(Note, though, that the devices spins 180 degrees to the left and 180 to the right — it isn’t a continuous 360-degree horizontal movement.)
Overall camera quality
Like all of our top picks, the Wyze Cam Pan offers a crisp 1080p resolution. Both the Wyze Cam Pan and Wyze Cam v2 come equipped with digital zoom functions and automatic motion-detection technology, which also allows the device to send you direct mobile notifications based on movement. On the app, you can see motion encapsulated in a lime green rectangular box, so there’s no need to parse through clips for several minutes trying to find the movement.
Wyze also offers person detection for both the Wyze Cam Pan and v2, which is a more advanced, refined type of artificial intelligence that lets you know when a human — not an animal or flying object — broaches the motion-detection range.
Free cloud storage
Wyze offers one of the most robust cloud storage options we’ve seen for home security cameras. Wyze Cams automatically record 12-second clips of motion and other events that are then uploaded to the AWS cloud and available for two weeks. Other companies, like Google Nest, offer only three hours of free cloud backup storage. Meaning, if you get a motion notification in the morning and you analyze it fully until your lunch break, that footage could very well have disappeared by the time you were able to retrieve it.
Wyze also gives you the option to insert an SD card to optimize storage options. This is also the only way to receive continuous recording directly from your app. The SD card also allows your camera to record events even when your WiFi is down or interrupted.
Wyze boasts doing its due diligence to keeping your information secure as it travels to and from your camera, Wyze app, and cloud. According to Wyze’s security and privacy FAQ : “The communication requests between your mobile device, your Wyze product, and the AWS Cloud Server are made via https (Transport Layer Security (TLS)) for alert videos. We use symmetric and asymmetric encryption, consistent hashing, and other ways to make sure users’ information cannot be stolen.”
Your videos and other information are sent to the cloud in a way that keeps hackers from unraveling it, even if it’s intercepted. This is otherwise known as AES 128-bit encryption, and it’s considered one of the safest algorithms to protect data. Then again, anything connected to the internet is vulnerable to hacking.
Points to consider
No Apple HomeKit
Wyze Cams offer a plethora of valuable integrations like IFTTT (If This Then That), which lets you easily automate certain functions in the home (like turning on motion detection when your Domino’s pizza is out for delivery). You can also sync your camera to your Amazon Alexa or Google Home (Assistant) device for voice command control, but you won’t be able to integrate it into your Apple HomeKit ecosystem.
Our testers’ main complaints involved the flimsiness of the Wyze Cams when not mounted. If you want to reposition your camera from room to room, mounting may not be ideal, so you want to make sure the device can hold its own.
- Discreet Cost-effective Home security tie-ins
- Audio and night vision quality
Why we chose it
The Wyze Cam v2, in terms of surface area, is one of the least-obtrusive security cameras we’ve seen. Our tester said it had a very “minimalist” and “contemporary look” in his apartment. Its 3-by 1.7 inch build (when raised) makes it easy to place it in small nooks and crannies. And, of course, Wyze gives you the option to mount it to a wall (yes, without screws) — and if you’re feeling creative, you can even position it on your whiteboard.
Wyze offer virtually everything its $150-$300 competitors provide in terms of integrations, motion sensing and person-detecting technology, and camera quality. Its $20 price tag allows you to purchase several for the price of — typically — one security camera, too. In turn, having several cameras dispersed throughout the household increases your ability to check back on more than just your dining or living area.
Unlike the Wyze Cam Pan, you won’t get a full 360-view of the intended area with the v2. Instead, you will get a manually-adjustable 110-degree lens.
Home security tie-ins
While Wyze Cams don’t offer direct integration into home security systems like Nest historically has (as seen with Abode and Scout Alarm, for example). But it does offer its own lineup of door, contact, and window sensors, known as Wyze Sense, which might prove especially useful if you’re trying to keep tabs on private areas (or know when and what guests or children are getting into).
Points to consider
Audio and night vision quality
These points generally apply to both Wyze Cams on this roundup, but our v2 tester noted problems with lag and grainy audio when using the two-way talk. The night vision, according to our tester, was underwhelming — but not to the point where he couldn’t see what he needed to. Several Wyze users have expressed similar complaints on discussion boards.
- Unobtrusive, wire-free Ample free video storage Built-in siren Data security
- Clunky hub
Why we chose it
The Arlo Pro 2 can be operated virtually wire-free, especially if you’re only interested in using the meat of its features. This eases the need to strategically place wires behind shelves.
However, opting to go wire free means you’re losing some aspects, like 24/7 CVR recordings and its three-second Look Back that allows you to see what happened three seconds before an event was detected. You can also only create activity zones when the cameras are plugged in.
Ample free video storage
Arlo cameras come second to Wyze in our lineup in terms of free video storage with a seven-day period. This gives you plenty of time to act on motion and person notifications — but you can upgrade to $10 for 14 days of continuous recording, or $20 per month for 30 days.
The Arlo Pro 2 is also the only camera in this lineup to offer a built-in, 100 decibel siren. You can trigger the alarm manually from the app, and emergency services are offered with the addition of Arlo Smart plans. This may prove beneficial if you notice your child, visitor, nanny (or all of the above) in danger.
In addition to meeting E.U. privacy requirements (which, by the way, are stricter than the U.S.’s), Arlo says it uses “the same encryption method that financial institutions use to safeguard their user data.” Like Wyze, it uses AES-128 bit encryption and TLS to make sure your information travels securely to and from the cloud. In addition, a “secure” HTTPS connection is said to prevent eavesdropping.”
Points to consider
One of the biggest drawbacks to the Arlo Pro 2 is the fact that it’s tied to a central base station that only provides connectivity for up to 300 feet. So, no, you don’t have to concern yourself with wire concealment, but you will have to strategically place the hub somewhere within close range of both your Arlo cams. (If you have a larger house or property, this might be difficult.)
- Integrations Camera quality Sturdiness
- Reputation Cloud storage
Why we chose it
The Google Nest Cam Indoor is a versatile camera with a plethora of third-party integration opportunities. However, the Works With Nest program, while originally slated to get the ax after Nest and Google were folded into one, will still offer the same integrations after its August 31st cutoff date. Any of existing integrations (including Abode, Scout Alarm, Vivint, and other home security systems) will still work with your Nest Account. Google just said it’d stop accepting new WWN integrations after the cutoff.
This camera can also be used directly with a Google Nest Secure home security system and will start recording immediately after its alarm sounds. Google Nest Secure’s contact sensors are also some of the only ones on the market with built-in motion sensors, which will send you notifications letting you know who’s nearby or leaving before any window or door is opened.
One of the main reasons this camera made its way into our lineup of best home security cameras was because of its camera quality, which was half the price of its more advanced counterpart, the Google Nest IQ indoor (which includes familiar face detection). You won’t miss a thing with its clear 1080p HD imaging, and it also listens for conspicuous sounds — like someone breaking in.
Comparatively speaking, this camera feels a little sturdier than the competition, although it may not be quite as discreet. There are four different ways you can position it, too — standing, magnetized to a wall, via tripod, or mounted to a wall.
Points to consider
It’s no secret that Nest (and Google) have garnered a hefty rap sheet for mishandling user data in the past few years. In fact, late last year, a family in Houston reported hearing a man’s voice threatening to kidnap their child over their Nest Cam. Granted, virtually anything connected to the internet poses some vulnerability to hacking. And Google Nest does offer two-factor sign-in authentication and claims to also use HTTPS and TLS encryption technologies while in transit.
Compared to the competition, this is where Google Nest falls behind. You’ll only get three hours of free cloud storage, and upping to a Google Nest Aware subscription will cost you $5, $10, or $30 for five, 10, and 30 days of video history, respectively.
Guide to Nanny Cams
How to find the right nanny cam for you
Look at integration opportunities with any existing home security systems
Like Eaton-Cardone said, a “nanny cam” is technically just a tool. If you have an existing home security system, you might want to think about opting for a camera that can integrate directly into this system. Having all of your devices work cohesively under one app might make mitigating risks easier for you, especially if the camera can record and send you notifications through your system’s app. Then again, you may not want all of the extra bells and whistles and may just be looking for a quality camera — it all depends on your preferences.
You might also want to look at the home automation protocols your camera supports — whether this be Zigbee, Z-Wave or Thread/Weave (in Nest’s case), as these help your devices talk to each other (like smart lights, smart door locks, and home security sensors).
Decide where you want to place your nanny cam
Some cameras are disguised as USB ports, alarm clocks, and speakers, but regardless of whether you’re looking for something more discreet or out in the open, you still want to make sure you’re able to see as much as you need. This is why we looked for cameras with an expansive view. Experts have told us that entryways and areas with high traffic are good places to start.
You have a good amount of liberty to record in public spaces and in your own home, but not necessarily in a bedroom or bathroom. “The law is much stricter, however, when there’s a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as a bathroom, bedroom, or changing area, and the person is unaware that they’re being recorded,” Eaton-Cardone said.
Inform guests of surveillance devices
While it’s technically legal to install a nanny cam (otherwise known as private home security camera), the laws for what you can and can’t record vary by state. Parental guardians must carefully check the legal status of using surveillance cameras within their state — because the law varies from place to place,” Ray Walsh, digital privacy expert at ProPrivacy.com, told Reviews.com in a statement. It may seem as though the purpose of a nanny cam is to capture behavior you wouldn’t otherwise see. “In an ideal world, a person could give ‘notice’ of a Nanny Cam to a caregiver and even obtain written consent to allow for recording. However, a caregiver that knows of the existence of a Nanny Cam may alter their behavior to not be abusive out of fear for being recorded,” David Reischer, attorney and CEO of LegalAdvice.com, said in a statement to Reviews.com
“The great irony is, we buy nanny cams because we’re so concerned about our family’s safety and security — but these cams can also provide secret access to predators, voyeurs and criminals.” Monica Eaton-Cardone
COO and co-founder of Chargebacks 911
It’s especially important to inform a caregiver or visitor of a surveillance camera, especially if it’s also recording audio (audio is generally held to a higher standard than video.) All states (minus Vermont) have established adaptations of the Federal Wiretap Act, which essentially makes it illegal to intercept a phone call or record a conversation if you aren’t one of the “consenting parties.” This means if you’re not part of the conversation, physically or via phone, under federal law, this is illegal.
These states, however, make it illegal to record without the consent of all parties. (So, no, you still can’t record audio even if you’re there):
The other states are one-party consent states, meaning that one person has to consent to the recording (and yes, this can be the person recording). “Ultimately, it is important for the parents to determine the best course of action of whether to use a nanny cam or not,” Reischer said. “Consideration should be given to whether the video or audio footage will be allowed to be used as evidence in a criminal or civil proceeding depending upon state law specifics on whether the evidence was obtained in a legitimate manner.”
Nanny Cam FAQ
Where is the best place to put a nanny cam?
The answer depends on your needs, but when it comes to nanny cams, places that don’t come with a “reasonable expectation of privacy” might be best. Even hosting sites, like Airbnb, require hosts tell their guests about recording devices — whether they’re turned on or not.
Are nanny cams legal?Technically, you can video record in your own home. But it’s still best to get explicit consent from visitors. States like New York, Rhode Island, and
Californiaprohibit the placement of cameras in areas where one’s privacy is expected. Overall, video surveillance is taken case-by-case, and the Fourth Amendment may even protect individuals seeking privacy in public spaces.
How can I keep my nanny cam data secure?
No internet-connected device is 100% secure. In our research, some of the best ways you can keep your information secure involve updating your password, encrypting your network connections, using two-factor authentication, using devices made by established brands, and finding an identity theft protection service.
According to Eaton-Cardone, here are a few other tips for keeping your nanny cam data secure.
- Use a password with 12 characters, including uppercase, lowercase, numbers, and other special characters.
- Make sure to turn it off if you don’t have a use for it, especially if you’re home and able to monitor what’s going on.
- If it’s connected to an app — use correct password protection. Your app can connect to your nanny cam, and without strong password protections, someone could hack into it.