Is your home doorbell breaking the law?

As technology develops, so do the gadgets in our homes, and one thing that has seen a massive rise in popularity is the doorbell camera. These videos allow us to answer the door from anywhere in the world and keep our homes secure, but how many of us are aware of the privacy laws regarding CCTV?

There are now questions being raised about whether those who own camera doorbells are familiar with the rules, so here we take a look at whether your home doorbell could be breaking the law.

What is a doorbell camera?

Doorbell cameras have been a great addition to home security, as they video everyone who comes onto your property. This footage can all be viewed through your mobile phone, and you can interact with those on your doorstep without opening the door.

That means that even if you are not home, you can tell people where to leave a parcel or simply to get away from your property. The footage can also be saved and given to the police should any criminal activity take place.

Domestic CCTV rules

Doorbell cameras are fantastic, but there are some rules that you need to follow in order to stay on the right side of the UK’s privacy laws. Ideally, your camera should only capture images from within the boundary of your own domestic property, but realistically, this is not always possible, particularly when your front door faces out onto the street.

You, therefore, need to think carefully about where your doorbell is positioned, to minimise what it can see outside of your own property. If it does look onto your neighbour’s property or a shared space, then you will be subject to data protection laws.

If you capture images from the street or someone else’s property, you will need to be able to justify why you are doing so. You should also let people know that you are using CCTV through signs and only capture the footage that you need.

If you do have footage from outside of your property, then it is your responsibility to make sure that it is kept securely. That means that no one should be able to watch it without a valid reason. You should also ensure that the footage is not kept for any longer than necessary and that the system itself is not misused.

Those who are caught on camera have the right to access any personal data that you hold about them, including identifiable images so you may be required to give the footage to them or delete it if they ask you to. You can refuse to do so, but there needs to be a legal reason for you doing so, such as it being part of a legal dispute.

You also need to think about any objections your neighbours might have about your camera. For example, does it point into their front room rather than just capturing images of the street? If they feel that their privacy is being invaded, then they have the right to ask you to move it.

Whilst most cases can be dealt with quite simply, if you fail to follow the rules, you may be subject to enforcement action by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). The penalties for this are usually fines, but you could also be subject to legal action from the affected individuals.

Doorbell cameras are a great addition to any home, but you need to ensure that they are positioned and used responsibly. There needs to be careful thought about where you put them and what images they capture, as well as steps to make sure the footage is secure.

 

For more information on data protection, read Data protection and Data protection principles. For more information on using CCTV at home, read the ICO’s guidance on Domestic CCTV. If you have any questions or concerns, Ask a lawyer.

 

Nick Booth

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