An Amazon doorbell can violate your neighbor’s privacy

Photo of the doorbell in front of the house

Aiming your security camera at a neighbor’s home violates British privacy laws.
Image: Chip Somodevilla (Getty Images))

A judge in the UK ruled that a man violated the privacy of his neighbor by using an Amazon doorbell without prior consent.

According to The Guardian, Jon Woodard installed a camera with a doorbell in front of the house and another security camera facing the side yard to prevent burglars after a series of car burglaries. However, Woodard failed to reveal the cameras to his neighbor, Dr. Mary Fairhurst. Fairhurst reported that she was “upset and horrified” when she realized Woodard had recordings with her and her voice available on his smartphone. Fairhurst eventually moved out of her house after the two of them quarreled over cameras.

Judge Melissa Clarke of Oxford District Court ruled that Woodard violated UK general data protection rules and Data Protection Act 2018, which states that “owners and residents of domestic premises must be consulted if the domestic premises border the intended inspection area”. Clarke also concluded that the video and audio recorded by the doorbell and cameras were Fairhurst data and that security devices contributed to the harassment.

For his part, Woodard kept his only intention behind setting up cameras to prevent potential burglars. His total fine could be up to £ 100,000 or almost $ 137,000.

While this case is not significant in the UK, it is an example of what happens when privacy laws apply. It’s hard to imagine a similar verdict being handed down in the US, which doesn’t have comprehensive privacy regulations like the UK or the EU, but just as companies had to change the way they collect cookies to comply with EU GDPR legislation (a change that vulnerable Internet users in the U.S.), hardware manufacturers may eventually be required to incorporate more privacy protection into their home surveillance products.

Amazon told the Guardian that it strongly encourages its customers to respect the privacy of their neighbors and “respect all applicable laws” when using the Ring product. Camera rings have privacy settings, such as the ability to turn off audio recording, along with motion zones, which allow you to choose which parts of the camera view should be considered when recording.

Generally out of courtesy: if your cameras are pointing outward toward someone else’s property – enough to keep your neighbor’s faces and car license plates in the frame from time to time – you should tell them that. Although the whole purpose of these cameras is to help you see people who are close to your home. They may be criminals, but usually it’s just your neighbors. In this age of surveillance, security cameras turn anyone into a potential suspect.

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Naveen Kumar

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