Let's say I'm inside a US government building, which houses a government agency, and I'm speaking with an employee (or agent) of that government agency.

If I directly ask them whether they recording our conversation, and I ask them whether such recordings contain video, audio, or both ... are they legally required to tell me whether they are recording?

Would this be regulated by federal law, or state law?

It is my understanding that all recordings, including surveillance recordings, obtained by the government on public property (e.g. government property) are public records, unless the government can provide a good reason why publishing such records would pose a credible threat to public safety and security, etc.

Therefore, if you ask the government for a recording of a conversation you participated in, the government is generally required to provide a copy of the recording to you.

However, could government agencies realistically try to get around this requirement, by refusing to tell people what types of recordings they have or don't have?

After all, if you can't prove the government actually possesses a particular recording, you can't hold the government accountable for meeting this requirement.

  • What makes you think that government agencies would not be subject to the same privacy/convo recording laws that the general public is? Do you think they are immune from those laws? – Greendrake May 14 '20 at 3:29
  • @Greendrake A recorded conversation between two private citizens (especially in a one-party state) is not the same as a recorded conversation that is a government record. There are laws that require the government to disclose these recordings when requested, but afaik there are no such laws requiring private citizens to disclose such recordings. Therefore, the government has an incentive to pretend the recordings don't exist, if they can get away with it. So I'm wondering if the government can be compelled to stop pretending. TL;DR yes it's different for the government. – Giffyguy May 14 '20 at 5:23

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