BRITS have been advised how to avoid being landed with a £100,000 Ring doorbell fine – and what to do if you think your neighbour is filming you.
Important guidance has been issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) after a man was fined £100,000 after a court ruled that that Jon Woodard’s use of his Ring cameras broke data laws.
He was also found to have pursued a course of harassment during his dispute with Dr Mary Fairhurst.
She was forced to move out of her home in Thame because the WiFi-connected gadgets were “intrusive”.
He was ordered to pay a fine of £100,000 for putting the doctor under “continuous visual surveillance”.
The ICO, is a non-departmental public body which reports directly to Parliament, acting to uphold information rights in the public interest.
However, it states people should try to point their cameras away from their neighbours’ homes and gardens as well as shared spaces or public streets.
It recognises though that this is not always possible.
The ICO recommends that when people do take images and audio recordings outside of their property boundary, they “should consider how intrusive this activity is”.
People are advised to see if they can point the camera elsewhere or apply filters or a privacy block.
In these circumstances, data protection law also requires them to follow certain rules – although these are difficult to enforce.
What can I do if I am unhappy about someone using domestic CCTV to record me?
In the first instance, the ICO recommends simply speaking to the person doing the recording and explain the situation.
If you’re concerned about talking to them in person, it recommends writing them a letter.
Ask them why they are using CCTV or a smart doorbell.
People usually install such a device to enhance their safety and make them feel more secure. Knowing why they are doing it may put your mind a rest.
It might be possible to come to an agreement where you can share the device and so both benefit from its features.
Explain your concerns. The user of the Ring doorbell may not be aware of your concerns about being recorded. Simply explaining your reasons may make them change the position of the camera.
Ask to see what they are recording. The footage captured by the camera may not be as intrusive as you think. Seeing the camera in operation may make you less concerned.
What can I do if someone is recording my children using a smart doorbell?
In most cases, the ICO recommends starting by talking to the person as they are likely to be doing so for a legitimate reason.
However, if you feel the person is filming your child inappropriately or to cause them harm, you should contact the police.
What can I do if I have an ongoing dispute with my neighbour about their doorbell recording me?
The ICO recommends following the government advice if you have an ongoing dispute with your neighbour.
The guidance recommends taking the following steps:
- Try to solve the problem informally by speaking with them.
- If the neighbour is a tenant, you could contact their landlord.
- Try using a mediation service if approaching the issue informally does not work.
- Contact the police if your neighbour is breaking the law by being violent or harassing you.
However, it warns the police are unlikely to consider using a Ring doorbell to record you as harassment, without evidence of some other misconduct by the person.
As a last resort you can take legal action through the courts.
What are the rules about smart doorbells or CCTV?
Data protection law says that people who capture images or audio recordings from outside their property boundary using a fixed camera, such as a CCTV camera or smart doorbell, should:
- Tell people they are using recording equipment.
- In most circumstances, provide some of the recording if asked by a person whose image has been captured.
- Regularly or automatically delete footage.
- In most cases, delete recordings of people if they ask, and
- Stop recording if a person objects to being recorded but only if it is possible to do so. For example if they can point the camera in a different direction but still use it for the same purpose.
People should note that these rules only apply to fixed cameras. They do not cover roaming cameras such as drones or dashcams.
What will the ICO do if someone doesn’t follow the rules?
A complaint can be made to the ICO if the rules are not being followed.
It can send a letter asking them to resolve issues, such as put up appropriate signage or respond to data protection requests.