Is my Ring doorbell invading my neighbour’s privacy?
The use of the Ring doorbell and cameras has been the subject of much controversy recently in terms of what extent they may breach a neighbour’s privacy.
Following a recent trial in the County Court at Oxford, Judge Clarke ruled that the use of a Ring doorbell, security cameras and lights installed on a property breached data protection law and contributed to the harassment of a neighbour.
The neighbour had sought an order for damages, the removal of the devices and the forbidding of the installation of further surveillance cameras which ‘unnecessarily and unjustifiably invaded her privacy’. The owner of the device said they were to act as a deterrent against criminal activity against his home. The owner of the Ring doorbell now faces a substantial fine even though he said he installed them in good faith as a burglar deterrent.
The Judge found that the devices which were activated by movement captured images and audio recordings of the neighbour’s driveway, front door and car parking space which could have been viewed at any time by from an app on his phone. The Judge ruled that in particular, the audio data collected by the devices had been processed unlawfully in breach of the Data Protection Act 2018 and the UK General Data Protection Regulation and concluded that she was:
‘…satisfied that the extent of range to which these devices can capture audio is well beyond the range of video that they capture, and… cannot be said to be reasonable…since the legitimate aim for which [the devices] are said to be used, namely crime prevention, could surely be achieved by something less’.
Although as a first instance decision the ruling has no precedence over future decisions of the Court, it is a stark reminder to property owners to be mindful of installing security equipment that quite literally crosses a boundary and that in installing such devices you should seek to ensure that any intrusion on the privacy of others is kept to a minimum. This case and the conversations around it show how normalised domestic surveillance has become in our communities.