Data Protection Law & Ring Doorbells

22nd November 2021Ring

Oxford County Court has recently heard a case that highlighted the ‘menace’ of homeowners who are using a Ring product to guard their homes. The Ring products such as smart doorbells and security cameras are becoming more and more popular.

Note: Other monitoring and security systems are available.

Case Summary

The disagreement occurred after Mr. Woodard installed several security cameras around his home and a Ring Doorbell. The doorbell and the cameras were installed with the capabilities of recording video and sound. Mr. Woodard’s neighbour, Dr. Fairhurst, noticed that one of the cameras was directly pointed at her home, and it did not capture any of Mr. Woodard’s property. Dr. Fairhurst decided to claim against Mr. Woodard for harassment and a breach of data protection legislation.

The Judge found that Mr. Woodard had tried to deceive Dr. Fairhurst regarding the type of and nature of data processed and found Mr. Woodard in breach of the rule regarding transparency.

The Court accepted that Mr. Woodard did have a legitimate interest in preventing crime on his property; however, they also had to consider the rights of Dr. Fairhurst to privacy in and around her own home.

UK GDPR

The fascinating part of the judgment is that there was NO dispute around whether UK GDPR applied to Mr. Woodard to gather images and recordings using his home security system. It was taken that it DID apply.

The principles focussed on by the Judge, in the case, were in respect of whether:

  1. The purpose for which the data was gathered was transparent to the person whose information is collected; and
  2. The personal data “shall be adequate, relevant and limited to what is necessary for relation to the purposes for which they are processed.”

A person recording you while in or on your property would be classed as a ‘Controller’ of your personal data under the Data Protection Act 2018. The Controller would then have a duty under this Act to use the data fairly and transparently. For example, if someone was recording you on your property without your knowledge, and or consent, then it can be argued that the Controller hasn’t correctly processed your data.

The ICO guidance on CCTV recommends that filming within the confines of a domestic property in a purely personal capacity falls outside of the scope of data protection legislation and is ok to do, however on some cameras, you can’t adjust it so that you end up recording your neighbours, the pavement, or other passers-by.

So how do you avoid invading your neighbour’s privacy and data rights?

Below are 10 points you can follow to prevent this:

  1. On your Ring device, change the settings so that the motion and audio zones do not include your neighbour’s property, blur neighbours faces, if that is possible, and where do not record audio.
  2. Every Ring device comes with a ‘warning sticker’; attach the sticker to your front/back door. The sticker should make people aware that they are being recorded if they enter or are around your property.
  3. Out of courtesy, before you set up the device, you should communicate to your neighbours and reassure them that it will not record them or their property. Tell them that if they have any concerns or questions, they should contact you.
  4. Get your conversation in writing; this could be done over email, ensuring that you have a paper trail of the conversation.
  5. If you find that your neighbour complains about your new device, keep a written note of all your conversations and contact the ICO or take legal advice as soon as possible.
  6. Make sure you use the device for its provided purposes, such as deterring criminals or diverting parcels, rather than spying on your neighbours.
  7. You should regularly review the settings on your device to ensure that it does not infringe on your neighbour’s property.
  8. Make sure the device is secured and that nobody can watch the footage without good reason. Many video doorbells will send the footage to the cloud.
  9. You should only keep the footage for as long as you need it. Once you are done with it, delete it.
  10. Anyone you share your property with, such as family members who could access the device, needs to understand the importance of misusing it.

If you have any questions or concerns about CCTV or surveillance systems in your organisation please do take advantage of a thirty minute consultation which is totally at our expense and one of our specialists will help put your mind at rest.

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