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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.

London now has the 4th highest CCTV Camera density in the World

A new study of CCTV Cameras has ranked London 4th highest in the World for CCTV Camera density, with only Chennai (India), Hyderabad (India) and Harbin (China) having more CCTV Cameras per km2.

“We recently calculated that London has 691,000 CCTV Cameras, with the average Londoner being caught 300 times a day on CCTV – what we hadn’t realised was where London ranked in the World – until now”, explains James Ritchey from London CCTV Installer CCTV.co.uk, “it’s fascinating stuff”.

According to a study by VPN provider SurfShark, the cities with the highest CCTV camera density per km2 are:

  1. Chennai, India (657 per km2)
  2. Hyderabad, India (480 per km2)
  3. Harbin, China (411 per km2)
  4. London, England (399 per km2)
  5. Xiamen, China (385 per km2)
  6. Chengdu, China (350 per km2)
  7. Taiyuan, China (319 per km2)
  8. Delhi, India (289 per km2)
  9. Kunming, China (281 per km2)
  10. Beijing, China (278 per km2)

The big rise for London is not state surveillance, but the amount of CCTV systems and doorbell cameras being used by residents at home.

“Only 3.4% of the CCTV cameras in London are actually Government controlled – everything else is private, but the density, that’s the interesting thing – there are a lot of cameras in a small area monitoring London”, explains Ritchey.

Generally, there are 4 types of CCTV camera systems used in London:

  • Local Authority/Council/Police CCTV camera monitoring systems
  • Corporate and business CCTV Systems
  • Home CCTV Systems
  • Doorbell and wireless cameras

Freedom of Information requests uncover that cameras operated by Local Authorities, Police and London Transport total 23,708 – which is just 3.4% of the total number in London. The remainder of CCTV cameras are operated by private businesses and homeowners totally over 96% – a number which is ever increasing as the cost of technology decreases.

“London by it’s nature is a compact city, however it’s very interesting to see that our Capital is up there with cities in China and India in terms of camera density – we see this only increasing over the next 10 years”, concludes James Ritchey from London CCTV Installer CCTV.co.uk

Which Towns & Cities in the UK have the most CCTV Cameras?

Our research shows us that there is now 1 camera for every 13 people across the UK

This is a list of the number of cameras in each city of the UK

Please credit this page with a link if you use these figures

1st – 702,000 – London
2nd – 84,000 – Birmingham
3rd – 59,000 – Leeds
4th – 47,000 – Glasgow
5th – 44,000 – Sheffield
6th – 40,000 – Manchester
7th – 39,000 – Edinburgh
8th – 37,000 – Liverpool
9th – 34,000 – Bristol
10th – 28,000 – Cardiff
11th – 26,000 – Leicester
12th – 25,000 – Coventry
13th – 24,000 – Nottingham
14th – 23,000 – Belfast
15th – 23,000 – Bradford
16th – 22,000 – Newcastle
17th – 21,000 – Plymouth
18th – 20,000 – Milton Keynes
19th – 20,000 – Hull
20th – 20,000 – Wolverhampton
21st – 20,000 – Stoke-on-Trent
22nd – 20,000 – Derby
23rd – 19,000 – Southampton
24th – 18,000 – Aberdeen
25th – 17,000 – Northampton
26th – 17,000 – Swindon
27th – 17,000 – Portsmouth
28th – 16,000 – Luton
29th – 16,000 – Warrington
30th – 16,000 – York
31st – 16,000 – Dudley
32nd – 15,000 – Bournemouth
33rd – 15,000 – Basildon
34th – 15,000 – Peterborough
35th – 15,000 – Bury
36th – 14,000 – Sunderland
37th – 14,000 – Walsall
38th – 14,000 – Southend-on-Sea
39th – 14,000 – Chelmsford
40th – 13,000 – Brighton
41st – 13,000 – Reading
42nd – 13,000 – Telford
43rd – 12,000 – Oxford
44th – 12,000 – Dundee
45th – 12,000 – Poole
46th – 12,000 – Huddersfield
47th – 12,000 – Newport
48th – 12,000 – Blackpool
49th – 11,000 – Bolton
50th – 10,000 – Cambridge
51st – 10,000 – Exeter
52nd – 7,000 – Basingstoke
53rd – 7,000 – Bath
54th – 7,000 – Maidenhead
55th – 6,000 – Barnsley
56th – 5,000 – Andover
57th – 5,000 – Ashford
58th – 5,000 – Aylesbury
59th – 4,000 – Bracknell
60th – 4,000 – Wrexham
61st – 2,000 – Amersham

Workings can be demonstrated here

Number of CCTV Cameras in the UK reaches 5.2 million

The number of CCTV Cameras in the UK may be as many as 5.2 million, with 1 camera for every 13 people as the popularity of public surveillance, home CCTV and doorbell camera use increases. 96% of the total number of cameras in the UK are now operated by private businesses and homeowners.

“It won’t come as a shock to most people that the number of CCTV Cameras in the UK has hit a new high, driven mainly by residents installing home CCTV in the last year. The popularity of doorbell cameras is relentless”, explains James Ritchey from CCTV installation company CCTV.co.uk

Previously the number of cameras in the UK was estimated at 4.8 million, however it is now believed that this number has jumped to 5.2 million as the cost of technology comes down and the popularity of sub £200 surveillance camera systems and doorbell cameras increases. Anxiety over lockdown and the increase in mail order purchases has driven the use of DIY CCTV systems at home for monitoring and security purposes.

“The technology is getting much cheaper, and when we look at the number of doorbell cameras, DIY CCTV and Home CCTV systems being installed by homeowners currently, we think the numbers have risen much more than we previously thought”, explains Ritchey.

The difficulty in calculating just how many CCTV cameras there are in the UK

There is no exact number available as to how many CCTV cameras there are, as a camera does not need to be officially registered – anyone can install CCTV to protect their property.

Generally, there are 4 types of CCTV camera systems in UK:

  1. Local Authority/Council/Police CCTV camera monitoring systems
  2. Corporate and business CCTV Systems
  3. Home CCTV Systems
  4. Non-installed Doorbell and wireless cameras

We can predict with some accuracy that the number of CCTV cameras in London totals 691,000.

A survey in 2002 by writers Michael McCahill and Clive Norris predicted 1 camera for every 14 people, and in high density areas this rises to 1 in 11. However, 18 years later we know these figures are somewhat inaccurate. CCTV.co.uk believes a figure of 1 for every 13 people is now a more acceptable average across UK cities.

Freedom of Information requests uncover that cameras operated by Local Authorities, Police and London Transport total 23,708 – which is just 3.4% of the total number in London. The remainder of CCTV cameras are operated by private businesses and homeowners totally over 96% – a number which is ever increasing.

Cities with the most CCTV Cameras in the UK:

  • 689,000 – London
  • 83,000 – Birmingham
  • 58,000 – Leeds
  • 46,000 – Glasgow
  • 43,000 – Sheffield
  • 39,000 – Manchester
  • 38,000 – Edinburgh
  • 36,000 – Liverpool
  • 33,000 – Bristol
  • 27,000 – Cardiff
  • 26,000 – Leicester
  • 25,000 – Coventry
  • 24,000 – Nottingham
  • 23,000 – Bradford
  • 22,000 – Belfast
  • 22,000 – Newcastle upon Tyne
  • 20,000 – Milton Keynes
  • 20,000 – Plymouth
  • 20,000 – Hull
  • 20,000 – Wolverhampton

“These numbers may send shivers down the spine of those worried about state monitoring, however it appears that the Government controls less than 4% of the total CCTV cameras in the UK – most are just homeowners protecting their property”, concludes James Ritchey from CCTV.co.uk

How many CCTV Cameras are there in London?

Research by CCTV.co.uk concludes that in London there is now 1 CCTV Camera for every 13 people, meaning there are now 691,000 CCTV Cameras in London (2020/21)

London is often called the CCTV capital of the world, and for good reason. The city is home to hundreds of thousands of CCTV cameras, and the average Londoner is caught on CCTV 300 times a day.

We can say with some certainty that London is one of the most heavily monitored cities in the world, but putting an exact figure on the number of CCTV cameras is much trickier. London’s CCTV is a mixture of government surveillance, business security, and private home cctv systems owned by individuals.

Different types of CCTV are logged differently and some do not have to be registered at all, meaning that any figure is bound to be a ‘guesstimate.’ Even so, there are a number of sources we can use to make our guess as educated as possible.

There are now 691,000 CCTV cameras in London

A quick Google search of “How many CCTV cameras are there in London?” will often provide a figure of around 500,000. This number comes from a 2002 survey by writers Michael McCahill and Clive Norris, but the survey has been heavily criticised for not using a wide enough sample. Even if the survey’s methodology is solid, the number would be extremely outdated by now. London’s population has risen by almost 2 million people since 2002, so a comparable rise in cameras is likely.

How many government cameras are there?

When trying to make an educated guess as to the total number of CCTV cameras in the capital, we should start with the information we are sure of. Cameras owned and operated by government bodies are a matter of public record, and so we can use these figures with a degree of certainty. Transport for London uses a total of 15,516 cameras across the tube network, and the Metropolitan Police has a further 110.

The City of London Council is known to operate 651 cameras, and a BBC survey of 2009 found that there were 7,431 surveillance cameras in use across all the local councils in Greater London.

So far, this gives us a total of 23,708 cameras – a ridiculously low number if you’ve ever walked around central London. But these official figures only show us a small part of the picture.

The vast majority of London’s CCTV cameras are not government-controlled but are instead owned and operated by private individuals and businesses. Cameras on business premises must be registered with the ICO (Information commissioner’s office) but, in a change to previous laws, domestic CCTV cameras do not have to be registered if they only capture images within the owner’s property. This means that there are potentially hundreds of thousands of unregistered private CCTV cameras in London, making the task even harder.

So, how many home CCTV cameras are there in London?

This is the million-dollar question and, unfortunately, there’s no easy way to answer it. A good starting point is a 2015 report by the British Security Industry Association. Although this report doesn’t attempt to give the total number of cameras in London, it contains a very useful estimate of how the number of private cameras compares to the number of government cameras. The BSIA believe that private cameras could outnumber public cameras by as much as 70 to 1. It is worth noting that this survey was based on the entire country. From what we already know about London’s surveillance levels, it is likely that the capital will fall on the high end of this estimate. Based on our previous figure of 23,708 public cameras, an estimate of 70 times as many private cameras would give us a figure of 536,447. Adding these together would give us a total of 560,155 – not far off the McCahill and Norris estimate we mentioned earlier.

This still seems low considering that 18 years have passed since that survey, and London has experienced one of the biggest population and property booms in its history in the meantime. Using population growth to estimate camera growth is not a bad strategy, and the BSIA report can help us here too. The report suggests that, in the UK as a whole, there is an average of one camera for every 14 people. It also estimates that, in the busiest areas, this number rises to 1 camera for every 11 people. We can comfortably assume that London fits into the “busiest areas” category, so using the one in 11 estimate seems sensible. At last count, the population of London was 9,304,000. Dividing this by 11 gives us an estimate of 845,818 cameras in the capital.

London though isn’t all the CBD area, it is made up of many sprawling suburbs. So, CCTV.co.uk thinks we can safely downgrade the figure to 1 camera for every 13 residents – this would give us a figure of 691,000 cameras in London (area) in 2020/21.

This figure is far from certain but, based on what we know about the number of cameras in 2002 and the city’s growth since then, it seems to be a sensible estimate. If we continue to see surveillance levels increasing in line with population levels, we can expect the number of CCTV cameras in the capital to pass 1,000,000 in the next 5 years.

Lockdown Theft: Pubs and Restaurants at risk from burglary

A fresh warning is being issued for pubs and restaurants to double up all security measures for the month-long lockdown to avoid the spate of break-ins seen during the first lockdown of March.

In March and April many closed premises were targeted with thieves using the quiet time to attempt to steal alcohol, money, and charity boxes – causing damage to vacant properties.

During the first lockdown pubs like The Bank in Westhoughton near Bolton were broken into together with 4 surrounding premises. Thieves were after alcohol and cash from charity collection boxes.

“Because premises are generally closed and empty, it’s easy pickings for those looking to profit from this time of hardship. Our advice is clear – reinforce all security measures before you are targeted!”

Those who have not properly secured their premises are at risk from break ins and theft during the whole lockdown as petty crime increases during lockdown periods.

Empty Pub

Empty Pubs are especially at risk from theft during lockdown

With the busy week over, where pubs and restaurants rushed to sell of stocks of food and beer, security might have been overlooked. However, it is now important to readdress measures to prevent further stress and misfortune seen before.

Pubs and restaurants are advised to consider these steps to protect their premises:

  • Reinforce hard deterrents such as considering boarding up back doors, cellar entrances and weak points
  • All alcohol should be taken out of view, perhaps into the cellar or off site
  • Remove all charity cash boxes
  • Leave tills empty and open
  • Check alarms and CCTV are working
  • Draw curtains and secure inner doors
  • Add signage to windows to say you have removed all alcohol, food and cash from the premises

“It’s terrible we are having to issue this advice, but we will see licensed premises targeted for alcohol and cash as we did before. I am personally worried that if the lockdown deepens, that premises will be targeted for food and alcohol – so the time is now to go into lockdown mode!”, concludes James Ritchey from CCTV installer CCTV.co.uk

Risk of burglary highest in Northern towns

Manchester, Doncaster, and Hull are ranked the top 3 worst places for burglaries in the UK according to new research, adding to anxiety for Northerners heading into dark winter months.

It makes for grim reading if you live in the North, because 7 out of the top 10 worse places for burglaries are towns located in the North of England, according to a survey of 2,000 respondents by CCTV installer CCTV.co.uk

CCTV view of burglar breaking in to home through window with crowbar

Manchester is ranked the worst with 15 burglaries per 1,000 people – with Doncaster and Hull close behind with 13.1 and 12.5 respectively.

“We don’t know why the North has it so bad, many of the areas prone to burglaries are densely populated estates and terraces, and Northern towns are full of these types of homes”, says CCTV Installer James Ritchey from CCTV.co.uk

The top 7 worst Northern cities are Manchester, Doncaster, Hull, Leeds, Bradford, Rotherham and Sheffield, each having their own share of social and economic issues. The 3 other cities in the top 10 were Southampton, Birmingham, and Northampton.

“Every burglary has an effect on the person who lives in the home, and burglaries tend to be carried out by a small number of people who live locally to the areas they target – perhaps Northern cities are simply more prone to this effect”, adds James from CCTV.co.uk

CCTV.co.uk recommends the following easy ways to deter burglars:

Physical barriers – fences, hedges, gates, doors – make sure it is difficult for anyone to get into and onto your property

Locks – ask a locksmith to audit your door and window locks, money spent here is well worthwhile as burglars gain access through openings (obviously!)

Lighting – installing infra-red security lights deters criminals as most prefer the dark to carry out their trade

Alarms – a home alarm is a solid way to protect your home should an intruder be successful in entering your home

CCTV – installing cameras is a great deterrent, together with motion alerts and chimes you can detect, deter and record any night-time activities

Signage – using signs such as “CCTV Alert” deters would be criminals

“The results paint a worrying picture, but with a few simple steps, especially the physical barriers, protecting yourself from a burglary doesn’t have to cost the earth – and gives you total peace of mind going into the winter months”, concludes James Ritchey from CCTV.co.uk

Results in table form are here:

Rank Location Burglaries per 1,000 people
1 Manchester 15
2 Doncaster 13.1
3 Hull 12.5
4 Leeds 11.5
5 Bradford 10.4
6 Rotherham 10
7 Sheffield 10
8 Southampton 9.8
9 Birmingham 9.3
10 Northampton 9.1

 

CCTV Installers seeing huge rise in demand from anxious homeowners

Homeowners are installing security systems at a never seen before rate due to anxiety over security this winter, according got a leading CCTV installation company.

“Demand is unprecedented for this time of year, and the recurring message is of nervousness, the World is changing, and people are feeling very worried going into the winter months”, explains Business Development Manager James Ritchey from CCTV Installer CCTV.co.uk

Winter is traditionally a steady time of year for installation, and as the clocks go back on the last Sunday in October there is a natural rise in enquiries with homeowners typically increase spending on security measures such as home CCTV, alarms and outdoor lighting as the nights get darker.

However, this year demand has increased by as much as 150% some weeks, the message from homeowners is clear, they are worrying about winter.

The ONS (Office for National Statistics) released some data in June 2020, stating the following worrying indicators taken from the “working population”:

  • 69% feel worried about the effect Covid-19 is having on their lives
  • 63% worry about the future
  • 56% are stressed or anxious
  • 49% are bored

“Lockdowns have a very negative effect on people’s ability to cope with day to day life, and the feeling that the home is a place of safety is key to maintaining a good mental state – it seems logical people are defending their homes by installing more security”, explains James Ritchey.

According to CCTV Installers CCTV.co.uk the most popular products being ordered are:

  • Doorbell camera and lighting systems
  • 2 camera CCTV systems
  • Installation of online bought CCTV systems

“If you are isolating, or indeed we get another national lockdown – people’s mental health in terms of feeling secure at home going into overdrive – we take comfort from a well defended home”, concludes James Ritchey from CCTV.co.uk