Share

More than 100,000 households in Britain which have installed doorbell cameras could face a £100,000 fine for breaching privacy under data protection laws by inadvertently filming their neighbours and then keeping the footage following a landmark ruling. 

A judge at Oxford County Court ruled that Jon Woodard’s use of his Ring cameras broke data laws and amounted to harassment of Dr Mary Fairhurst, who said she was forced to move out of her home in Thame because the WiFi-connected gadgets were ‘intrusive’. 

He could now be ordered to pay a fine of up to £100,000 for putting the doctor under ‘continuous visual surveillance’, however a decison on the final sum in fines and damages is still to be made by the judge. 

Audio-visual technician Mr Woodard insisted that he fitted four devices including two ‘dummies’ around his property to protect his vehicles from masked thieves who tried to steal his car in 2019. 

However, Judge Melissa Clarke dismissed Mr Woodard’s claim that the driveway camera was used legitimately to deter criminals from stealing his car and ruled that ‘crime prevention, could surely be achieved by something less’ than the devices.

She concluded that the devices captured images and audio on Dr Fairhurst’s property including her gate, garden and car parking spaces, that this was all Dr Fairhurst’s personal data, that Mr Woodard had breached UK GDPR by failing to process her data ‘transparently’, and that he then ‘sought to actively mislead the Claimant about how and whether the Cameras operated and what they captured’. 

The judge also took particular issue with the camera’s audio range, concluding: ‘I am satisfied that the extent of range to which these devices can capture audio is well beyond the range of video that they capture, and in my view cannot be said to be reasonable for crime prevention’.

‘I am satisfied that on many occasions it [the shed camera] had a very wide field of view and captured the Claimant’s personal data as she drove in and out of the car park,’ she added.    

An injunction placed on Mr Woodard means he has to put ‘blinkers’ on his shed and doorbell cameras so that they do not capture any of Dr Fairhurst’s property, or areas of the car park that she uses. In addition, the judge ruled that he will also have to disable the audio functions on his devices. 

The ruling could spark a tidal wave of lawsuits for alleged breaches of data laws and privacy. Security experts are now urging more than 100,000 households in Britain which have installed doorbell cameras – from Ring to Nest – to take all possible steps to ensure that their devices aren’t unintentionally recording other people in their homes or gardens. 

The court heard: 

  • Mr Woodard fitted four devices around his house. He claimed he did this to protect his vehicles from thieves;
  • But a judge ruled he’d recorded Dr Fairhurst’s property including her gate, garden and car parking spaces;
  • Judge said he breached UK GDPR by not handling her personal data in a ‘fair and transparent manner’;
  • Ruled that Mr Woodard then sought to ‘actively mislead’ Dr Fairhurst about what the cameras recorded; 
  • Judge took particular issue with camera’s audio range, saying it is ‘not reasonable for crime prevention’. 

The internet-connected devices notify the absent home owner via a smartphone when a visitor arrives at the door. The owner can then use an app to watch and talk to the visitor by using the doorbell’s built-in camera and microphone

Mr Woodard also raised concerns for other ring doorbell owners after the ruling

Mr Woodard also raised concerns for other ring doorbell owners after the ruling

Mr Woodard also raised concerns for other ring doorbell owners after the ruling

Dr Mary Fairhurst (right, with a friend at Oxford County Court) who claimed the cameras on a neighbour’s smart doorbells breached her privacy won a landmark legal battle yesterday

Dr Mary Fairhurst (right, with a friend at Oxford County Court) who claimed the cameras on a neighbour’s smart doorbells breached her privacy won a landmark legal battle yesterday

Jon Woodard, 45, (left, with his partner Nicola Copelin) may have to pay Dr Fairhurst more than £100,000 in damages after a judge found his use of the cameras broke data laws and amounted to harassment

Jon Woodard, 45, (left, with his partner Nicola Copelin) may have to pay Dr Fairhurst more than £100,000 in damages after a judge found his use of the cameras broke data laws and amounted to harassment

Dr Mary Fairhurst (left) who claimed the cameras on a neighbour’s smart doorbells breached her privacy won a landmark legal battle yesterday. Jon Woodard, 45, (right, with his partner Nicola Copelin) may have to pay Dr Fairhurst more than £100,000 in damages after a judge found his use of the cameras broke data laws and amounted to harassment

A female doctor is set to be paid more than £100,000 after a judge ruled that her neighbour's Ring smart doorbell cameras breached her privacy in a landmark legal battle yesterday

A female doctor is set to be paid more than £100,000 after a judge ruled that her neighbour's Ring smart doorbell cameras breached her privacy in a landmark legal battle yesterday

A female doctor is set to be paid more than £100,000 after a judge ruled that her neighbour’s Ring smart doorbell cameras breached her privacy in a landmark legal battle yesterday

Could you be fined £100,000 for using a doorbell camera? Here are some of the most popular ones…  

Ring 

People can buy basic Ring video doorbells from Ring’s website for around £40, going all the way up to around £160. Those wanting extra protection from thieves can buy security cameras starting at around £180 and going up to around £220.

Nest

At around £200, Google’s video doorbell Nest lets you know who’s at the door, so you won’t miss a visitor or parcel delivery. It can send an alert to your smart device, and can tell the difference between a person and something else.  

Ring

Ring

Nest

Nest

Left: Ring. Right: Nest

Arlo

With 180 degree diagonal viewing, Arlo captures  head-to-toe detail in 1080p video while the built-in siren helps deter intruders’, its website claims. Prices range from around £40 to around £180.

RemoBell

RemoBell operates on AA batteries, so you can install it anywhere without being restricted by power outlets or complicated wires. Customers can buy RemoBell cameras for around £130. 

Arlo

Arlo

RemoBell

RemoBell

Left: Arlo. Right: RemoBell

Ezviz

Like Ring and Nest, Ezviz lets you sand talk to your visitors from your smartphone anywhere. The built-in microphone and speaker make it easy for you to hear what’s happening outside the door. Costs around £135.

Lorex 

Lorex doorbells deliver ‘crisp HDR video and offers numerous features including color night vision, person detection, a built-in deterrent light and siren, and support for voice control’, the makers claim. Costs around £95.

Ezviz

Ezviz

Lorex

Lorex

Left: Ezviz. Right: Lorex

 

<!—->

Advertisement

In response to the ruling, Amazon-owned Ring asked customers to ensure guests know they are being captured on video by putting Ring stickers to put on their door or windows.

A spokesman for the California-based company said: ‘We strongly encourage our customers to respect their neighbours’ privacy and comply with any applicable laws when using their Ring device. 

‘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.’ 

Speaking to Mike Graham on talkRadio today, Will Geddes warned that people have got to make sure the view of their doorbell camera doesn’t intrude or invade into other people’s properties – including ‘not looking into other people’s windows, not even encroaching into their gardens or their property line’.

He also suggested people put up window signs saying where the cameras are hidden, and writing to their neighbours telling them that they are adjusting their cameras accordingly.

‘It means you’ve got to be careful if you’ve got Ring cameras and she may have a very good case, it seems that she does in this instance,’ Mr Geddes said.

‘However, I don’t think necessarily the homeowner – the person who owns the cameras – was intending to invade on her privacy.

‘When it comes to CCTV, whether it be your Ring doorbell or whether it be a hard-wired sort of CCTV system, you’ve got to make sure you don’t intrude on other people’s privacy.

‘The problem with Ring is you can listen live to it as you can with most CCTV cameras, but especially with Ring there’s an audible option. 

‘If you are putting CCTV around your house, maybe to protect your car as it was with this particular individual, you’ve got to make sure the view of the camera doesn’t intrude or invade into other people’s properties, so certainly not looking into other people’s windows, not even encroaching into their gardens or their property line. 

‘One of the things that you have to be considerate to is if they’re kind of covert or they’re hidden cameras, you need to have some kind of sticker in your window or signage that just alerts people.

‘That in itself is a good deterrent, certainly to any kind of criminal.

‘These Ring devices which are now owned by Amazon are incredibly and increasingly popular, they’re very easy, very cheap and they do act as a very good security measure.

‘However, it’s about misuse and it’s also about ensuring that you are not using it beyond the requirements or the agenda of why you’ve installed them.

‘If any of the viewers and the listeners have actually got Ring doorbells, or if they’ve got those peripheral devices, have a good look at those cameras through your live view on your app, on your device, whether that be your computer or your phone, and have a look and see whether it is intruding into your neighbour’s space.

‘If it is, then you need to get a stepladder out this evening and just adjust it.

‘Or even mention it to your neighbour and say ”look, I’m really conscious I’m not intruding on your privacy, I will adjust my cameras accordingly”.

‘But make sure you write that in an email so you’ve got an audit trail to show that you are doing the best you possibly can.’

The woman, who had lived peacefully next to Mr Woodard for two decades, claimed he had harassed her by becoming ‘aggressive’ when she complained to him about the cameras, the court heard.

In response to the ruling, Amazon-owned Ring advised device owners to ensure people know they are filmed by putting Ring stickers on their door or windows

In response to the ruling, Amazon-owned Ring advised device owners to ensure people know they are filmed by putting Ring stickers on their door or windows

In response to the ruling, Amazon-owned Ring advised device owners to ensure people know they are filmed by putting Ring stickers on their door or windows

Audio-visual technician Mr Woodard insisted that he fitted four devices, including two 'dummies,' around his property to protect his vehicles from masked thieves who tried to steal his car in 2019

Audio-visual technician Mr Woodard insisted that he fitted four devices, including two 'dummies,' around his property to protect his vehicles from masked thieves who tried to steal his car in 2019

Audio-visual technician Mr Woodard insisted that he fitted four devices, including two 'dummies,' around his property to protect his vehicles from masked thieves who tried to steal his car in 2019

Audio-visual technician Mr Woodard insisted that he fitted four devices, including two 'dummies,' around his property to protect his vehicles from masked thieves who tried to steal his car in 2019

Audio-visual technician Mr Woodard insisted that he fitted four devices, including two ‘dummies,’ around his property to protect his vehicles from masked thieves who tried to steal his car in 2019

New data protection laws explained: How 2018 Act could land you £100K fine

Under the Data Protection Act 2018, you have the right to find out what information the Government and other organisations which collect data store about you.

But anybody who sets up Ring doorbell cameras around their home becomes a ‘data controller’ under data protection law, meaning that they collect data.

Guidance set out by the Information Commissioner states that controllers must comply with, and demonstrate compliance with, all the data protection principles as well as other GDPR requirements.

This means the ICO and individuals may take action against a controller regarding a breach of UK GDPR. Under the transparency provisions, the information you need to give people includes your intended purposes for processing the personal data, and the lawful basis for the processing.

All people have the right to access personal data, as well as the right to be informed about how your data is being used and have that data erased.

If a controller does not comply with your rights or does not provide a lawful basis for collecting data, they could be found in breach of data protection law and liable to court action. 

<!—->

Advertisement

Judge Melissa Clarke yesterday found that Mr Woodard had breached the provisions of the Data Protection Act 2018 and UK GDPR. 

Dr Fairhurst is now entitled to compensation and orders preventing the Mr Woodard from continuing to breach her rights with his security devices. 

Speaking after yesterday’s remote hearing, Mr Woodard said he was ‘extremely disappointed and shocked’ by the judge’s decision.

He told the Mail: ‘I purchased a ring doorbell and ring motion activated camera in 2019, in good faith to protect my property and vehicles.

‘To now be told these are harassment devices feels like a joke and I myself feel like I am being harassed. Many of my neighbours have cameras and smart doorbells.’

Mr Woodard also said the decision went against current guidance from police forces, many of which have appealed for video doorbells footage to help gather criminal evidence.

He said: ‘I wonder if the police will now still be able to appeal to the public to check their smart doorbells, cctv, and dashcams in order to assist them solve crime, and use to assist convictions.’ 

Mr Woodard also raised concerns for other ring doorbell owners after the ruling, adding: ‘I feel for the tens of thousands of homeowners with ring home security who could now be targeted in the same manner I have.’

The damages payable to Dr Fairhurst are expected to be confirmed in a court hearing in November. 

Jonathon Rushton, representing Mr Woodard, intervened during the hearing, and told the judge: ‘These cameras aren’t just used in isolation. There are many properties around the area that also have these Ring doorbells.’

Judge Clarke responded: ‘I’m not a policeman of the world. They [the other camera owners] are findings, so I don’t find it applicable that other people are doing the same thing.’ 

Expert comment: Will Geddes on doorbell cameras

Will Geddes on doorbell cameras

Will Geddes on doorbell cameras

Will Geddes on doorbell cameras

You’ve got to be careful if you’ve got Ring cameras and she may have a very good case, it seems that she does in this instance. However, I don’t think necessarily the homeowner – the person who owns the cameras – was intending to invade on her privacy.

When it comes to CCTV, whether it be your Ring doorbell or whether it be a hard-wired sort of CCTV system, you’ve got to make sure you don’t intrude on other people’s privacy. 

The problem with Ring is you can listen live to it as you can with most CCTV cameras, but especially with Ring there’s an audible option. 

If you are putting CCTV around your house, maybe to protect your car as it was with this particular individual, you’ve got to make sure the view of the camera doesn’t intrude or invade into other people’s properties, so certainly not looking into other people’s windows, not even encroaching into their gardens or their property line. 

One of the things that you have to be considerate to is if they’re kind of covert or they’re hidden cameras, you need to have some kind of sticker in your window or signage that just alerts people. That in itself is a good deterrent, certainly to any kind of criminal.

These Ring devices which are now owned by Amazon are incredibly and increasingly popular, they’re very easy, very cheap and they do act as a very good security measure. 

However, it’s about misuse and it’s also about ensuring that you are not using it beyond the requirements or the agenda of why you’ve installed them.

If any of the viewers and the listeners have actually got Ring doorbells, or if they’ve got those peripheral devices, have a good look at those cameras through your live view on your app, on your device, whether that be your computer or your phone, and have a look and see whether it is intruding into your neighbour’s space. If it is, then you need to get a stepladder out this evening and just adjust it. 

Or even mention it to your neighbour and say ‘look, I’m really conscious I’m not intruding on your privacy, I will adjust my cameras accordingly’. 

But make sure you write that in an email so you’ve got an audit trail to show that you are doing the best you possibly can.

<!—->

Advertisement

Source: Daily Mail UK

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *