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: