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Judge rules that a Ring doorbell invaded a neighbour’s privacy

A judge has ruled that video and audio footage from security cameras and a Ring doorbell broke laws pertaining to personal data, in unjustifiably invading the privacy of a neighbour.

You might think that your doorbell is a matter for you and nobody else, but with the advent of smart home tech you had better think twice about your neighbours’ privacy before attaching recording equipment to your home.

That’s the lesson to take away from a recent judgement at Oxford county court, which ruled that such a device violated the privacy of another household. 

According to the BBC, the issue was ignited when Jon Woodard showed his newly installed home security system to his neighbour Dr Mary Fairhurst who was “alarmed and appalled” by what she saw; a camera mounted on his shed which recorded her garden and parking space, and a Ring doorbell that captured images of her house and garden. A dispute followed, and Dr Fairhurst took the decision to move out of her home.

Judge Melissa Clarke ruled that the processing of audio data collected by these devices was “even more problematic and detrimental than video data” as it “may be captured from people who are not even aware that the device is there, or that it records and processes audio and personal data” and was therefore in breach of UK Data Protection Act and UK GDPR.

Amazon, the manufacturer of the Ring doorbell and the other cameras, said in a statement that “We’ve put features in place across all our devices to ensure privacy, security and user control remain front and centre – including customisable privacy zones to block out ‘off-limit’ areas, motion zones to control the areas customers want their Ring device to detect motion, and Audio Toggle to turn audio on and off.”

The Information Commissioner’s Office was quoted as saying: “Lots of people use domestic CCTV and video doorbells. If you own one, you should respect people’s privacy rights and take steps to minimise intrusion to neighbours and passers-by… In the vast number of cases, there are no issues.”

 

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