Amazon has urged owners of its Ring security cameras and doorbells – which come with a camera and microphone – to respect the privacy of neighbors after a court ruled their use violated data laws.
A neighbor complained about the use of the devices, which homeowners can access remotely through an app, by Jon Woodard, a plumber from Oxfordshire.
An Oxford County Court judge said the Data Protection Act 2018 and the UK’s 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 the harassment.
Judge Melissa Clarke said the video footage and audio files captured by the Ring doorbell and the cameras of neighbor Dr Mary Fairhurst were her personal data. The ruling said the devices’ ability to capture conversations at distances between 40 and 68 feet was excessive.
“The range at which these devices can capture audio is far beyond the range of the video they capture and, in my opinion, it cannot be said to be reasonable for the purposes for which the devices are used by the defendant, since the legitimate purpose for which they are supposed to be used, namely crime prevention, could surely be achieved by something less, ”Clarke said.
The judgment records that Fairhurst was “alarmed and dismayed” that Woodard had a camera in his shed, with footage sent to his smartphone. A series of camera disputes between neighbors in Thame led Fairhurst to leave her home, the court said.
The Ring device captured images of the plaintiff’s house and garden, while the shed’s camera covered most of his garden and parking space, according to the judgment.
Woodard, who said he installed the devices in good faith to deter burglars, told The Sun he feared bankruptcy. “This court ruling means I’m probably going to have to go bankrupt and close the business 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 the privacy of their neighbors and to comply with all 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 does not set a legal precedent in the UK, but should make people wonder “if we are comfortable decorating our neighborhoods with powerful gadgets video surveillance “.
“The fact remains that anyone with a Ring doorbell can turn their neighborhood area into a guarded space thanks to its video recording functionality and its audio processors capable of picking up sound from 40 meters away,” said Hannah Hart, expert in digital privacy. at ProPrivacy.
“This means that a small number of residents can effectively turn public spaces into hotspots, and even share their recordings with the police.”