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Compliance and Privacy: Navigating Legal Aspects of Alarm Verification


Ensuring online privacy goes beyond just following government rules. Companies must create strong data security policies to prevent issues like data breaches and legal troubles. Strict laws regulate data handling, with the FTC enforcing them in the U.S.

Legal teams must understand and address the risks of not complying with these rules, especially considering the high number of data breaches.

International data breaches have become a concern as the internet connects us globally. Understanding U.S. and global privacy laws can be confusing, with laws covering different data types.

Europe, particularly with the GDPR, leads in global data protection. The U.S. has a mix of federal and state privacy laws.

What is Alarm Verification?

The history of alarm-based security systems dates back to the post-World War I era, when the rise in property crime led to the need for innovative protection measures by homeowners and businesses in the United States.

The concept of residential security initially involved "door shakers," night watchmen paid to check if doors were locked. Advanced systems emerged with electromagnetic contacts on doors and windows connected to batteries and bells, monitored by central stations.

Video alarm verification is a security system enhancement that connects your security setup with an alarm monitoring center. When an alarm is triggered, monitoring center agents can access security camera footage to identify the cause, contact local authorities, confirm emergencies, and provide crucial information. This results in a faster and more accurate emergency response.

With police departments increasingly responding only to verified alarms, alarm verification services become crucial. Typically, it involves attempting to contact the location or user associated with a burglar alarm to confirm the validity of the signal, reducing unnecessary police responses.

Technically, the Alarm Verification Facility (AVF) is a feature within fire detection and alarm systems that validates an alarm signal's authenticity. This facility reduces false alarms in fire detection by confirming if the signal indicates a real fire emergency.

The Alarm Verification Feature in automatic fire detection systems involves smoke detectors reporting alarm conditions for a specified duration or confirming them within a given time frame after an automatic reset, minimizing unwanted alarms.

Video alarm verification adds an extra layer of security to homes or businesses, enhancing protection for property and belongings.

The Problem with False Alarms


False alarms in security systems pose a significant issue, with 94-98% being deemed false, causing problems for both authorities and homeowners.

The police and emergency responders often waste time due to these false alarms, and homeowners face fines. Various attempts have been made to address this problem, such as alarm verification through multiple triggerings or video surveillance, but they come with drawbacks like high costs and privacy concerns.

When is no Alarm Verification Required?

In certain situations, the requirement for alarm verification may be exempted.

Fire Alarm or Panic/Robbery-in-Progress Alarm

Alarm verification is not mandatory for a fire alarm or an alarm triggered during a panic or ongoing robbery.

Verified Crime-in-Progress by Video or Audible Means

Instances where a crime-in-progress has been confirmed true through video or audible verification do not necessitate alarm verification.

Contractual Agreement for No Alarm Verification

In cases where the alarm site or user has a contractual arrangement with the alarm monitoring company explicitly stating that no alarm verification is required, law enforcement should be immediately dispatched upon alarm activation.

These exceptions provide flexibility in specific scenarios where immediate response without prior verification is deemed appropriate or agreed upon through contractual terms.

Video Alarm Verification

Constant surveillance for your business is now achievable through the rising popularity of video alarm verification. This method swiftly confirms incidents or intruders, facilitating the prompt dispatch of authorities.

Utilizing one or multiple cameras, the system transmits recorded or live video to a smartphone or central monitoring station, visually confirming the alarm's trigger. Some systems enhance this by pairing alarm notifications with live video clips for immediate review.

This approach represents a significant leap from traditional verification methods reliant on phone calls and on-site checks.

With video verification, business owners, central station operators, and authorities can promptly prioritize alarms, initiating action plans to ensure employee safety and property security. The integration of real-time visual confirmation marks a substantial improvement in overall security response.

Protecting Personal Data


Our data holds value for hackers, who may exploit it directly or trade it with other cybercriminals. Personal data has a price, whether medical records, financial history, credit card details, or online shopping preferences. Internet privacy is crucial as it empowers you to control your identity and personal information.

Without this control, others can manipulate your identity for their gain, whether persuading you to spend more or stealing your savings. While apps dominate daily online interactions, basic internet safety rules remain essential.

Hackers are still after personal information that can grant them access to credit card and bank details. Unsafe online behavior can lead to various threats, from enduring embarrassing posts to getting entangled with undesirable individuals.

General Data Protection Regulation

Navigating the complex landscape of state and federal privacy laws may seem overwhelming, but there are practical ways to identify the applicable regulatory requirements for your business.

Taking a strategic approach across three key dimensions is crucial in determining the privacy requirements applicable to your organization. First, regarding location, collaborate with your compliance partner to gain a deep internal understanding of the state and federal frameworks that directly impact your business.

Second, consider the industry nuances, recognizing that different sectors, such as healthcare, retail, or financial services, have distinct treatments under U.S. privacy laws. Work closely with your compliance partner to thoroughly investigate industry-specific standards and implement customized measures to meet regulations like HIPAA and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

Lastly, assess the size of your business and, if it involves storing substantial private data through third-party entities, ensure their controls align with your compliance needs.

This comprehensive strategy ensures that external factors like size or third-party relationships do not compromise your compliance efforts.

Securing Private Information: Understanding Applicable Privacy Standards

Securing information privacy and confidentiality involves using logical, technical, administrative, and physical safeguards to maintain data confidentiality, integrity, and availability. In this context, confidentiality refers to preventing unauthorized access to restricted non-public information agreed upon by multiple parties.

Navigating the complex landscape of state and federal privacy laws becomes more manageable by considering key factors such as customers, business location, industry, and size. Working with compliance partners and conducting industry-specific searches helps identify applicable regulations like HIPAA and financial industry standards.

Establishing a systematic compliance effort involves several key components:

Overall Compliance Strategy

Develop a comprehensive, measurable, and centralized strategy outlining the organization's approach to data privacy compliance, encompassing fundamental principles and involving all relevant organizations and stakeholders.

Compliance Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)

Appoint and train SMEs to specialize in specific regulations like HIPAA or GDPR, for example, ensuring a single source of expertise to drive legally compliant policies and practices.

Inventorying and Assessing PII or SPI

Identify and tag personal data at the data collection point, providing a method to track and appropriately protect it according to legal standards.

Data Protection Policies and Procedures

Implement solid administrative, technical, electronic device, and physical security safeguards to maintain data confidentiality, integrity, and availability. This includes detecting and preventing unauthorized access and constantly assessing and updating information security measures.

Response Strategy and Plan

Develop an effective data breach response plan and escalation process to mitigate the impact of cyberattacks. Train employees responsible for breach response and implement documented corrective actions as preventive measures.

Compliance Documentation

Properly document compliance plans and processes using content management systems like Microsoft SharePoint, ensuring easy tracking of all documents, reports, and records.

Proof of Compliance

Ensure that compliance is known but also verifiable and readily accessible through reports and documentation. Establish processes for reporting non-compliance, a defined escalation path, and continual adherence verification through monitoring, auditing, and controls.

The American National Standard Alarm Validation Scoring (TMA-AVS-01)

TMA's New Standard for Safer Security Systems

The Monitoring Association (TMA) is a group of companies that install, service, and monitor security systems. They want to make the world safer by improving how security systems are monitored. TMA has introduced a new standard called TMA-AVS-01, focusing on creating a score based on data from alarm activations. This score will help when alarm monitoring centers contact Emergency Communication Centers to request help with burglar alarms.

Confirmation Procedures for Better Response

TMA has outlined standard procedures to check alarms before emergency help is called. It starts with trying to contact people associated with the protected place to confirm if there's a real emergency. They notify emergency services if there's no response, but only if they believe there's a real problem.

If someone answers, they need to provide a valid code. If the code is correct, and they confirm no emergency, the alarm is considered false, and no more notifications are made. They try to reach someone off-site or notify them if there's no valid code.

Using Audio and Video for Better Verification

TMA is also focusing on using audio and video for better verification. After getting an alarm, they use audio to talk to the protected place. If they can't confirm through audio, they use two-way communication. They want to reduce false alarms and improve the accuracy of emergency responses.

For video verification, operators follow steps to understand the situation better. They categorize based on human activity and decide what action to take. Interactive audio and video combine to make this process more effective.

Smart Devices and Other Factors

Signs are sent to the subscriber's device if the alarm system supports smart devices. If there's no response, the station takes action, depending on what they know about smart verification.

There are also procedures for unexpected situations and false alarms. They have a plan for situations with multiple alarms to reduce false alarms and make sure emergency responses are accurate.

Quick Response for Urgent Situations

For urgent situations like Hold-Up alarms, there's no time for verification. Emergency responders are notified immediately.

For Residential Panic/Duress/Emergency Alarms, they follow a standard process. The monitoring station contacts specific people to confirm the alarm, ensuring they only call emergency responders if it's a real emergency. They keep in touch with the customer throughout the process.

The American Data Privacy and Protection Act (ADPPA) Draft


The Security Industry Association (SIA) has shared insights on the bipartisan data privacy discussion draft, ADPPA, released on June 3, 2022. SIA identifies concerns related to potential impacts on video surveillance, alarm systems, and biometric technologies. The draft's framework does not align well with existing privacy laws, such as the GDPR, and may negatively affect public safety.

One primary concern is the broad definition of "biometric information" and the restrictions on its use, potentially hindering the commercial usage of security cameras. The draft's treatment of facial imagery as biometric information without exceptions raises alarm. The proposed legislation also affects the transfer of photo and video data information, impacting security and life safety systems.

Data Privacy Laws

The consent mechanism suggested in the draft, termed "affirmative express consent," deviates from GDPR standards. SIA recommends aligning it with existing state data privacy laws for clarity. Law enforcement cooperation exceptions, clarification for government contractors, and considerations for first responders and alarm systems are also highlighted.

Additionally, the definition of "publicly available information" and the broad scope of "biometric information" raise concerns regarding privacy risks and applicability.

Key Recommendations for Improvement

SIA proposes several critical changes, including a more robust security exception, clarification on exceptions for covered and sensitive data, exclusion of photos and videos from biometric information, and alignment with existing state laws. The draft's impact on beneficial biometric technology applications, especially for access control and security, is emphasized. SIA urges the removal of Section 404(k) concerning facial recognition to prevent conflicts with national data privacy rules.

In summary, SIA suggests modifications to ADPPA to address privacy risks, security systems, consent mechanisms, law enforcement cooperation, government contractors, and the definition of biometric information. These changes aim to ensure the effective use of technology while upholding privacy standards and public safety.

California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the Privacy Protection Agency


The CCPA grants California residents the right to understand the data collected about them and the option to refuse its sale. The California Privacy Protection Agency is dedicated to safeguarding consumer privacy, informing businesses and consumers of their privacy practices, rights, and responsibilities, and robustly enforcing the CCPA. Personal information, which the CCPA protects, encompasses details identifying or related to a specific consumer or household, such as names, email addresses, purchase records, internet activity, geolocation, fingerprints, and inferred preferences.

Sensitive personal information, a subset of personal information, includes more delicate data like social security and driver's license numbers, access credentials, precise geolocation, communication contents, genetic details, and health or lifestyle information. Consumers can control how businesses utilize and disclose this sensitive data. Notably, publicly available information, lawfully accessible to the general public or disclosed by the consumer without restrictions, falls outside the realm of personal information under CCPA.

In essence, CCPA empowers California residents by providing transparency regarding their data, allowing them to control the usage of sensitive personal information collected there, and establishing boundaries on businesses' handling of personal information. At the same time, the California Privacy Protection Agency ensures compliance and accountability in this privacy framework.

Alarm Companies in Los Angeles

In certain places, like Los Angeles, alarm companies must follow specific rules to ensure compliance. They need to check for a valid permit before installing an alarm system and obtain one if needed.

When notifying the police about an alarm, they must provide essential details, including the user's name and address. Using a burglar alarm system with two false alarms within a year requires verification before seeking police assistance.

Alarm companies must make two phone attempts to verify a service need before requesting police help. Additionally, there's a seven-day waiting period after installing a new alarm system before seeking police assistance. Non-compliance may result in fines or jail time.

Following these rules helps manage alarm systems effectively in Los Angeles.


Navigating the legal aspects of alarm verification and privacy compliance poses business challenges amid rising data breaches and evolving regulations. The CCPA and proposed ADPPA bring complexities, demanding legal teams' attention. Video and audio technologies in alarm verification enhance response accuracy, aligning with the TMA-AVS-01 standard for safer security systems.

Critical factors in the privacy landscape include sensitive data definitions, consent mechanisms, and exceptions for law enforcement. SIA's proposed ADPPA modifications aim to balance privacy and technology. In California, CCPA empowers residents, and alarm companies in places like Los Angeles must adhere to specific regulations, emphasizing permits and verification processes.

The interplay of legal compliance, privacy protection, and technology underscores businesses' challenges. A strategic, adaptive approach is essential to meet regulatory demands, protect privacy, and foster innovation in security systems.

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