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 that their use violated data laws.
A neighbor complained about the use of the devices, which owners can access remotely through an app, from Jon Woodard, an Oxfordshire plumber.
An Oxford county court judge said the 2018 Data Protection Act and the UK General Data Protection Regulations had been violated and that 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 images and audio files captured by the Ring doorbell and cameras of the neighbor, Dr. Mary Fairhurst, were her personal data. The ruling stated that the devices’ ability to capture conversations from 40 to 68 feet away was excessive.
“The extent to which these devices can capture audio is far beyond the range of video they capture and cannot, in my opinion, be said to be reasonable for the purpose for which the defendant uses the devices, as the legitimate purpose for what they are said to be used for, namely crime prevention, could surely be achieved with something less, ”Clarke said.
The sentence records that Fairhurst was “alarmed and dismayed” to see that Woodard had a camera in his shed, with images sent to his smartphone. A series of disputes over cameras between neighbors in Thame led Fairhurst to move out of his home, the court heard.
The ring device captured images of the plaintiff’s home and yard, while the shed camera covered most of her yard and parking space, the ruling concluded.
Woodard, who said he installed the devices in good faith to deter thieves, told the Sun he feared bankruptcy. ‘This court ruling means that I’m probably going to have to go bankrupt and close the business because I can’t pay £ 100,000, I can’t even pay £ 5,000. How is that fair?
In a statement, Amazon said: “We strongly encourage our customers to respect the privacy of their neighbors and comply with 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 feel comfortable decorating our neighborhoods with powerful CCTV devices.”
“The fact is, anyone with a Ring Doorbell can turn their neighborhood area into a surveyed space due to its video recording functionality and audio processors that can pick up sound from 40 meters away,” said Hannah Hart, an expert. in privacy at ProPrivacy.
“This means that a small number of residents can effectively transform public spaces into surveillance hotspots and even share their recordings with the police.”