Ring doorbells and data rights

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Gateley Legal NI

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A recent case in the Oxford County Court highlighted the perils for homeowners of operating a Ring product to protect their properties. Ring products, such as smart doorbells and security cameras, are becoming ever more prevalent.

They have advanced motion and audio detection, including live voice and siren response capabilities. Ring’s recent acquisition by Amazon has also pushed down the price of these ‘James Bond’ style devices, making them affordable to the average household. Certainly, in my own hometown, I would estimate that every third household has a Ring doorbell fitted.

The dispute in question related to two neighbours in detached houses. One had installed a Ring doorbell camera and a Ring security camera to the front of his property. He had done this due to the attempted theft of his vehicle, in an understandable effort to deter the culprits. His neighbour, a doctor, claimed that the range of these cameras encroached into her driveway, and such encroachment included the camera audio function, which enabled it to hear her conversations when she was there. The cameras also recorded her movements to and from her property. Her attempts to complain to her neighbour were apparently met with derision, which led to her taking a legal case for the infringement of her privacy and data protection rights. The court agreed with her and she was awarded damages of £100,000.

Are you breaking privacy laws by having a Ring doorbell installed? 

Under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998, respect for your private and family life is a legal right. This includes intrusion into your home life. These rights have been cemented in case law and the legal test is: do you have a ‘reasonable expectation’ of privacy? If so, then such privacy is protected at law. This would normally apply to someone’s home.
Under the Data Protection Act 2018, someone recording you while you are in the bounds of your property would ordinarily be a ‘controller’ of your ‘personal data’. They would then have a duty under this Act to ‘process’ (i.e. ‘use’) such data in a ‘fair and transparent’ manner. So if someone was recording you on your land without your permission or consent, then it could be argued that they have not processed your personal data in a fair or transparent manner. The ICO guidance on CCTV suggests that filming within the confines of your own home and garden falls outside of the legislation and is ok, but it is not always possible to adjust the camera on most video doorbells to avoid recording the pavement, your neighbours or other passers-by.
So if you have a Ring product (or similar device), how do you avoid infringing your neighbour’s privacy and data rights? The following tips are recommended:

How do you avoid infringing your neighbour’s privacy and data rights?

  1. Adjust the motion and audio ‘zones’ on your Ring device to ensure they do not include your neighbour’s property
  2. Attach a Ring ‘warning sticker’ (which come included with every Ring device) to your front/back door to make people aware that they are being recorded if they enter your land.  Ideally, the sticker or sign should tell people that recording is taking place, and why and give your contact details.
  3. Before you install your device, speak to your neighbour and assure them that the device will not record them or their property and that you will adjust the device zones accordingly. Tell your neighbour that if they have any concerns or questions, they should contact you in the first instance.
  4. Follow the conversation up with an email to confirm what was said, so you have a paper trial.
  5. If your neighbour continues to complain, keep a written note of all conversations (and copies of any emails and texts) and take legal advice as soon as you are able.
  6. Ensure you don’t capture more footage than you need to achieve your purpose in using the device, which will normally be to deter criminals or divert parcels, rather than snooping on your neighbours.
  7. Regularly review your device zones and settings to ensure that it does not encroach on your neighbour’s property. Keep a record of such reviews.
  8. Ensure the security of the footage you capture – in other words, make sure the camera is properly secured and nobody can watch its footage without good reason.  Many video doorbells will archive footage to the cloud.  You should not use it or share it with others.
  9. Only keep the footage for as long as you need it – delete it regularly, and when it is no longer needed.
  10. Ensure the product is only operated in ways you intend and can’t be misused for other reasons. Anyone you share your property with, such as family members who could use the equipment, need to understand the importance of not misusing it.

Would you like further guidance on how you can avoid infringing privacy and data rights?

For further information on how you can avoid infringing your neighbour’s privacy and data rights, please contact our expert listed below and visit our dispute resolution service page for more information on the services we offer.

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