Amazon has urged owners of its Ring security cameras and doorbells – which come with a camera and microphone – to respect neighbours’ privacy after a court ruled their use broke data 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.
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 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, la corte ha sentito.
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 40 metres 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.”