Ringing the changes: does your doorbell contravene GDPR?
The case of Fairhurst v Woodard, heard at the County Court at Oxford, has led to some alarmist headlines in the past week following the release of the Judgment. Tabloid warnings have suggested that anyone with a Ring doorbell camera could face fines of £100k. But it will likely not surprise many that the details of this case were far more nuanced than many of the headlines have portrayed.
Dr Fairhurst (the Claimant) brought a claim for harassment, nuisance and breach of the Data Protection Act 2018 against Mr Woodard (the Defendant). Importantly, the video/audio equipment in question did not only relate to the Ring Video Doorbell, but also to other video and audio devices. I will deal with the Ring Video Doorbell on its own here, as one the main concerns arising from the judgment is from owners of this device – are they at risk of being sued for simply owning a Ring doorbell?
While the Claimant’s claim for nuisance failed, the Claimant was successful in her claim for harassment and her claim that the defendant breached the provisions of the DPA 2018 and UK GDPR. It is clear from the Judgment that the claim for harassment succeeded not just because the Defendant had installed a Ring Video Doorbell but because of the Defendant’s behaviour – including saying that he had sent the Claimant’s image to the police and threatening to set up concealed cameras.
Audio/video doorbells and GDPR
With regards to whether the Ring Video Doorbell’s use of video personal data had breached Data Protection and UK GDPR, the Court considered “the balance between the legitimate interests of the Defendant and the right of the Claimant to privacy and a home life”. The Court was satisfied that “[the Defendant’s] legitimate interest in protecting his home, whether [the Defendant is] there or not, are not overridden by [the Claimant’s] right to avoid such incidental data collection on a public street, albeit in the vicinity of [the Claimant’s] home”.
The processing of the audio personal data was however found by the judge to be “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”. Owners of the Ring Video Doorbell should consider how much the video personal data is infringing their neighbour’s privacy. This will likely have to be analysed on a case by case basis, as what the video captures will depend on the view from the doorbell. If there is an option to turn off the audio function on the Ring doorbell, then it may be prudent to do so given this recent ruling. Whilst County Court Judgments are not binding, they can be used as a guide in future cases.
Want to find out more? Contact our Dispute Resolution team who will be happy to assist you.