With the recent court ruling over the use of an Amazon Ring Door Bell, many customers are seeing advice on the legal use of CCTV Cameras at home and for their business.
A self installed DIY Ring Video Doorbell has triggered a recent court case which has hit the headlines. In this article we will discuss what the legal requirements are for CCTV cameras installed in homes and business and how our customers can comply by having a system installed by Advanced Overwatch.
Data protection compliant CCTV systems installed in Northern Ireland
We provide our commercial and residential customer with guidance and advice on the legal aspects of CCTV installation in Northern Ireland.
- We install home CCTV systems and business CCTV system in compliance with UK data protection laws and to BS:EN standards
- You can get a free, in-person home or business security survey by calling: 02870878077 or emailing us here.
Our CCTV Installation Engineers and office staff are fully trained on implementation of Data Protection Law when installing our systems. At Advanced Overwatch we have an internal IAPP (International Association of Privacy Professionals) certified member of staff for all Data Protection related work and guidance, holding expert qualifications: CIPM (Certified Data Protection Manager) and CIPP/E (Certified Information Privacy Professional/Europe).
In this article:
- What was the CCTV court case about?
- Use caution with self-installed DIY CCTV systems
- Legal use of CCTV on a private domestic property
- Legal use of CCTV in a public place, such as shared driveway
What was the court ruling about?
A Court in the United Kingdom has upheld a harassment claim after a neighbour complained about the use of security cameras and video doorbells.
- A judge ruled that a doctor’s neighbour’s Ring smart doorbell cameras breached her privacy in landmark case
- Dr Mary Fairhurst claimed cameras on Jon Woodard’s doorbell broke data laws and that his behaviour during their dispute amounted to harassment
- She told court that Amazon-owned Ring cameras placed her under ‘continuous visual surveillance’
- Judge Melissa Clarke found Mr Woodard breached provisions of the Data Protection Act 2018
- The landmark ruling could pave the way for thousands of lawsuits over use of the Ring doorbell device
Caution urged using self-installed systems
Amazon has subsequently urged owners of its DIY Ring security cameras and doorbells – which come with a camera and microphone – to respect neighbours’ privacy after a court ruled their use broke data protection laws.
A neighbour complained about use of the devices, which can be remotely accessed by homeowners via an app, by Jon Woodard, a plumber from Oxfordshire.
A judge at Oxford county court said the Data Protection Act 2018 and the UK General Data Protection Regulation had been breached and Woodard now faces a substantial fine. The court also upheld the claim that the devices contributed to harassment. The EU-derived GDPR is kept within Britain’s domestic law as the UK GDPR, which rests alonside a revised form of the DPA 2018.
Judge Melissa Clarke said the video images and audio files that the Ring doorbell and cameras captured of the neighbour, Dr Mary Fairhurst, were her personal data. The ruling stated that the devices’ ability to capture conversations at ranges of between 40ft and 68ft (12m-20m) away was excessive.
“The extent of range to which these devices can capture audio is well beyond the range of video that they capture, and in my view cannot be said to be reasonable for the purpose for which the devices are used by the defendant, since the legitimate aim for which they are said to be used, namely crime prevention, could surely be achieved by something less,” said Clarke.
The judgment records that Fairhurst was “alarmed and appalled” to see that Woodard had a camera on his shed, with footage sent to his smartphone. A series of disputes about the cameras between the neighbours, in Thame, led Fairhurst to move out of her home, the court heard.
The Ring device captured images of the claimant’s house and garden, while the shed camera covered most of her garden and her parking space, the judgment found.
Woodard, who said he installed the devices in good faith to deter burglars, told the Sun he feared bankruptcy. ‘This court ruling means I am probably going to have to go bankrupt and close the business down because I can’t afford £100,000, I can’t even afford £5,000. How is that fair?”
In a statement Amazon said: “We strongly encourage our customers to respect their neighbours’ privacy and comply with any applicable laws when using their Ring product.”
The tech company said there were privacy settings on its devices including an “audio toggle” to turn sound recording on and off.
ProPrivacy, the digital rights group, said the ruling did not create a legal precedent in the UK but should prompt people to consider “whether we’re comfortable decorating our neighbourhoods with powerful CCTV gadgets”.
“The fact remains that anyone with a Ring Doorbell can turn their area of the neighbourhood into a surveilled space due to its video recording functionality and audio processors, which are able to pick up sound 40ft away,” said Hannah Hart, a digital privacy expert at ProPrivacy.
“This means a small number of residents can effectively transform public spaces into surveillance hotbeds, and even share their recordings with police.”
Legal use of CCTV on a private domestic / residential home
CCTV systems should always be operated in a way that protects the privacy of others. The installation of CCTV has been the subject of many disputes between neighbours and complaints to the police and Information Commissioner’s Office by people who believe the cameras are being used to spy on them and their families.
With this in mind, consider the following questions:
- Why do I need CCTV? Could I use other means to protect my home, such as internal CCTV or a Burglar Alarm? (You can read more information on how to secure your home against burglary this winter)
- Should I install a DIY system or use a professional, SSAIB Certified company such as Advanced Overwatch?
- What do I want the CCTV camera to capture? (A front door, parking space, back yard, shed etc)
- How do my neighbours feel about my putting up CCTV? Where can I position the camera to ensure minimal intrusion to my neighbours’ and others’ privacy? If the camera’s range overlooks a neighbour’s property, can I attach privacy filters?
- Do I need to record the images, or is a live feed enough?
Be aware that if your camera captures images outside your own property, those images are subject to the Data Protection Act 2018 and UK GDPR, which are enforced by the Information Commissioner’s Office, and you will need to ensure that you comply with these laws.
See below for more info on this.
- Tell your neighbours as a matter of courtesy. You may wish to put a sign up on your property informing people that CCTV is in use, although this is not mandatory unless your system records images beyond your own boundary.
- Make sure the date and time is correctly set on your system following your CCTV installation.
- Ensure recordings are not used for any other purpose than protecting your property and control who has access to the system.
- Regularly delete recordings and ensure they are not kept for longer than is necessary for the protection of your property.
- Keep all recordings secure and keep access to them to a minimum. Remember that you are responsible for what happens to the information.
Check your system regularly to ensure it is working properly. Clear away debris and wipe the lens.
Be aware that in the event your CCTV captures images of an incident, your recordings may be used as evidence to help a police investigation. So, you should consider:
- How straight forward is it to extract recordings from your system? Can this be done without interrupting the operation of the system?
- Can it be provided in a suitable format without losing image quality or time and date information?
- If you do collect footage that may be used to identify offenders, you should only share this with the police or other relevant law enforcement body.
We strongly advise our customers not to share images or recordings on social media sites without police permission. Doing so could jeopardise a police investigation, and any repercussions from such activity may well not be covered under the Public Liability Insurance currently offered by your home insurance company.
The ICO has produced guidance for private use of CCTV.
Legal use of CCTV in a public place, such as shared driveway
If you install a CCTV camera overlooking a public place, such as a walkway that runs behind a terrace of houses or the road at the end of a cul-de-sac, the images you capture are subject to the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA). The Act gives everyone the right to see information you captured about them, such as images of them or their car number plate. It also sets strict rules that CCTV operators must follow when they gather, store, and release CCTV images of individuals.
- The person responsible for the CCTV system must have a clear and justifiable reason for capturing CCTV images, and must be able to explain this to the ICO if asked. This person must decide what is to be recorded, how the information should be stored and used, how long recordings are kept for, and to whom they may be disclosed. These policies should be written down. You should also be able to explain why the need to record such images is more important than the need to protect the privacy of passers-by. You no longer have to register with the ICO or pay a fee, but you are still legally responsible for compliance with the DPA.
- Obvious signs must be erected advising people that CCTV is in use in the area. Signs must be clearly visible and readable.
- Conversations between members of the public should not be recorded on CCTV, as a general rule, as this is very intrusive to people’s privacy. So if your CCTV system has an audio recording function, you should turn it off.
- Recordings must only be retained for as long as there is a reason for keeping them; information should be deleted regularly.
- Images and recordings should only be released in line with the current NWN data protection guidance ie to the police or other law enforcement agency. In general, these should not be shared on social media, released to the media or to another member of the NW scheme. If data is shared incorrectly, or without reasonable justification, the ICO can take action against you and you may be fined.
- If you capture images of an individual, they can legally request to see the footage and you must provide this to them within one month. They can also ask you to delete it, which you must do unless you need to keep it for a legal dispute. In this case, you must tell them this, and also let them know they can complain to the ICO or challenge it in court.
It is important that your information can be used by law enforcement agencies if required. If it can’t, this can undermine the whole purpose of having CCTV. So you need to consider:
- How practicable is it to extract recordings from your system? Can this be done without interrupting the operation of the system?
- Can it be provided in a suitable format without losing image quality or time and date information?
The ICO is keen that people consider whether use of CCTV is necessary and proportionate in the circumstances. It states: “Using surveillance systems can be privacy intrusive. They can place large numbers of law-abiding people under surveillance and recording their movements as they go about their day-to-day activities. You should therefore consider carefully whether to use a surveillance system.
The fact that it is possible, affordable, or has public support should not be the justification for processing personal data.”
In 2012 the government created the role of Surveillance Camera Commissioner, whose functions are to encourage compliance with the Home Secretary’s Surveillance Camera Code of Practice and its 12 guiding principles.
The SC Code applies to cameras operated by relevant public authorities, but the Commissioner also encourages other operators, including private citizens, to adopt the Code voluntarily.