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A ding-dong over a ding-dong: the potential perils of home security

Articles | Thu 14th Oct, 2021

Could EVERY doorbell camera owner face £100,000 fine after landmark ruling” thundered a headline from yesterday’s Daily Mail.  The short answer to the question is “No”, but the question was prompted by the judgment of HHJ Melissa Clarke in Fairhurst v Woodard.

The case concerned allegations that four cameras positioned around the Defendant’s property breached the provisions of the Data Protection Act 2018 (“DPA”) and the UK GDPR.  The judgment, which turns on its own facts, found that there were breaches of the DPA and regulations and judgment was consequently given in favour of the Claimant.

The case has made headlines in the press on the basis that the claim was somehow novel.  However, the ICO has offered guidance on the use of CCTV cameras in a domestic context for some time.  The guidance notes that if a homeowner has a surveillance system that captures images of people outside the boundary of the private domestic property, e.g., a neighbour’s home or a public footpath, then the provisions of the UK GDPR and DPA will apply.

The guidance sets out a series of questions that should be considered by someone before installing a CCTV system.

  • Do I really need CCTV?
  • Are there other things I could use to protect my home, such as better lighting?
  • What is the most privacy-friendly way to set up the system?
  • What areas do I want the cameras to capture?
  • Can I position the cameras to avoid intruding on my neighbours’ property or any shared or public spaces?
  • Do I need to record the images, or is a live feed enough?
  • Has my CCTV system got an audio-recording facility? Audio recording is very privacy-intrusive. So in most cases where householders use CCTV, they should disable audio recording.

Given the publicity surrounding the judgment in Fairhurst v Woodard it would seem likely that other such claims will follow and doorbell cameras can be added to boundary walls, overhanging tree branches and loud music on the list of things over which neighbours can fall out.

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