Smart doorbells: Alice Beer discusses security risks
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Ring doorbell cameras are a foolproof way to monitor your property whether you’re home or not. The smart technology of these video and audio detectors means homeowners can take their own measures to prevent crime – but at what cost? Operating your own home surveillance may be done with good intentions, but it turns out that using them in these three spots could land you in a legal battle that you probably won’t win.
Everyone in the UK has a right to a private and family life under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, 1998.
While using a smart doorbell will protect your own privacy, property and belongings, a recent legal battle has proven that it could be at the cost of your neighbours.
The scope of smart doorbell technology allows the Ring doorbell to record video and audio footage from five, to 25 feet outward from where it is fixed.
Motion detection zones can be un-intrusive to neighbouring properties if set to the right distance, but a careless set-up could leave you in breach of your neighbour’s rights.
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How to use a smart doorbell legally
From the case Fairhurst v Woodward, Judge Clarke highlighted the importance of proper use of smart doorbells like the Ring doorbell used by the defendant.
In order to use your doorbell without risking a breach of your neighbour’s privacy, avoid fixing your doorbell in these three positions:
- So that it looks onto your neighbour’s property
- Too close to the border of your property so that it detects neighbouring audio
- Where it doesn’t serve to specifically prevent crime
Looking onto your neighbour’s property
Video and audio contain personal data, so any footage detected outside of your property is likely to breach UK General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) laws.
Positioning your smart doorbell so that it includes neighbouring property in the detection zone could easily identify a person’s care registration, appearance or individual attributes which they do not consent to being recorded and stored as footage.
Always position your Ring doorbell so that it detects the front of your own property where intruders or visitors can be identified – but avoid including neighbouring homes, driveways or gardens in the scope of your motion detection zone.
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Close enough to record conversations of neighbours
This breaks GDPR as with video footage which can record and store a neighbour’s personal conversations.
In the case of Fairhurst V Woodward, the ring doorbell was positioned so that it could pick up audio and video activity on the shared and private property of the claimant, Doctor Fairhurst.
The issue with this is that the owner of the doorbell has the footage at their disposal to use unlawfully without the knowledge of the neighbour.
You are legally bound to comply with data protection law if you are aware of your doorbell posing a threat to a neighbour’s privacy on their private property.
Where it isn’t necessary
This point was highlighted by Judge Melissa Clarke in the case of Fairhurst V Woodward where principle two of UK GDPR was considered.
Misleading a neighbour to think that your doorbell does not detect activity on their private property breaches the purpose limitation principle of data protection.
In this case, Mr Woodwrad lied to Dr Fairuhrst by saying that the device on the shed only captured his own car parking spaces, when in fact it had a wider view of Dr Fairhurst’s parking space.
Using your doorbell to prevent crime on your own property is justified by you should always be upfront if you are aware that the scope stretches beyond your own property and onto a neighbouring plot.
There is no need to capture personal data for another person in order to prevent crime, only to prevent crime and collect your own personal data.
Data protection rights and Ring Doorbells
In an age of modern technology, the Ring doorbell itself is not seen as an invasive product, but a recent legal dispute has shown the position of the law on the use of home surveillance.
Fairhurst v Woodward recently went to the County Court in Oxford where the judge ruled the defendant’s use of a Ring doorbell as an ‘unjustifiable invasion of privacy’.
Dr Fairhurst took legal action against her neighbour, Mr Woodward for use of a ring doorbell on a shared driveway which the neighbours both used to access parking spaces behind their homes and gardens.
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