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Use of a Ring Doorbell Found To Be In Breach of Data Protection Laws

A Ring doorbell is a video surveillance system made by Amazon which captures both video and sound within a certain range. They start at £40 to over £200.

These have become increasingly popular but a recent case has highlighted the potential pitfalls which you should be aware of before buying and using one.

Fairhurst v Woodard (2021)

Mr Woodward purchased and installed a Ring doorbell in 2019.

His neighbour, Dr Fairhurst, brought a claim for injunctive relief and compensation, on the grounds that Mr Woodward had breached the law under the Data Protection Act 2018.

The court found in October 2021 that:

  • a) Images and audio files were classed as ‘personal’ data
  • b) Mr Woodard (as data controller) had failed to process that personal data in a fair or transparent manner

The court argued that the range of the device (especially the audio) went beyond what was reasonably required for crime prevention (the reason given by Mr Woodward for the installation)

A hearing will determine the value of any compensation award. There has been speculation of compensation up to £100,000 but I doubt that this is accurate measure of the likely award a court will make.

ICO Guidance

The ICO has guidance on its website (‘Domestic CCTV systems – guidance for people using CCTV’) which sets out useful tips you should consider:

  • Let people know you are using CCTV by putting up signs saying that recording is taking place, and why.
  • Ensure you don’t capture more footage than you need to achieve your purpose in using the system.
  • Ensure the security of the footage you capture – in other words, holding it securely and making sure nobody can watch it without good reason.
  • Only keep the footage for as long as you need it – delete it regularly, and when it is no longer needed.
  • Ensure the CCTV system is only operated in ways you intend and can’t be misused for other reasons. Anyone you share your property with, such as family members who could use the equipment, needs to know the importance of not misusing it.

Words of Caution

Data protection obligations can be quite onerous so you need to give serious consideration about whether the benefits from having the video surveillance system is justified given the risks involved.

This is especially because if you do not meet the obligations imposed by the Data Protection Act then you can be subject to enforcement action by the ICO including a fine. The data subject could also bring a civil claim in the courts against you for an injunction to prevent continued use and compensation, as Dr Fairhurst has now successfully done.

If in doubt you should speak to the ICO or seek legal advice on the implications. Our dispute resolution solicitors have years of experience in dealing with data breaches and privacy claims. To speak to one of our experts please call 0330 822 3451 or request a call back online.