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Are Doorbell Cameras Legal? Legal Issues UK

A landmark ruling has brought into question whether smart doorbells should be subject to tighter restrictions, after a woman successfully prosecuted a neighbour for his ‘excessive’ use of the devices.
Judge Melissa Clarke ruled that Jon Woodard breached the UK Data Protection Act and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) when he effectively created a ‘surveillance zone’ on Dr Mary Fairhurst’s home, after installing multiple video and audio recording smart doorbells.

Are doorbell cameras and such devices legal?

Technically, smart doorbells are legal under British law, but it’s all about how you use them.

In the case described, Woodard had situated Ring doorbells at multiple locations in order to monitor traffic coming into and out of his driveway, following a robbery and a separate car theft. The issue came about because the doorbells are activated by motion sensors that cover 40 feet, meaning they recorded Dr Fairhurst every time she entered or exited her property.

This was deemed to be a breach of privacy, and Woodard now faces steep fines of up to £100,000. The case also raises questions about the ethics of using such technology, with many more homeowners facing the possibility of prosecution.

How should you install smart doorbells?

One of the factors which led to the prosecution of Jon Woodard was his failure to alert people to the fact they were being recorded.

Homeowners wanting to use smart doorbells can minimise the risk of court action by putting up signs which warn others that video cameras are being used on their property.
You should also consider where such devices are installed, ensuring they are not pointed directly at other people’s homes and won’t be activated by other people coming and going. On the whole, while smart doorbells remain legal in the UK, they must be positioned with a great deal more consideration if people don’t want to end up on the wrong side of the law.

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