An English judge ruled that the functions of an Amazon Ring doorbell violated data protection law after a dispute between neighbors over allegations of a gang of armed thieves attempting to steal an Audi found in court.
Dr Mary Fairhurst sued her neighbor Jon Woodard after she alleged that her mass of CCTV cameras, including an Amazon Ring doorbell camera, amounted to harassment, nuisance and a violation of data protection law ( DPA) 2018 *.
The case was sparked by audiovisual technician Woodard who installed another camera on a neighbor’s wall after falsely claiming that an “armed criminal gang” attempted to steal his car – putting a communal parking lot and his access road under full surveillance.
Following numerous disagreements from her neighbors and a screaming game that left Fairhurst feeling so insecure she left her home on Thame’s Cromwell Avenue, the case ended in court County of Oxford.
The judgment does not set a binding legal precedent: decisions of the High Court and Court of Appeal do, while county courts simply apply precedents set by higher courts. Nonetheless, the case is sure to be cited in national video surveillance disputes for years to come.
Video OK but no audio
Ruling in favor of Fairhurst, Her Honor Judge Melissa Clarke said that although Woodard’s rights to film his door were stronger than his neighbor’s right to walk around without CCTV surveillance, Woodard could not legally record the audio. of the camera, which was sensitive enough to choose conversations over 12 meters:
“Much of the goal could be achieved without audio at all,” the judge added.
Cromwell Avenue, Thames. The car park and its access road are clearly visible behind the houses in question. Image Bing Cards
Fairhurst had opposed Woodard’s growing army of cameras, spread across his own garden, owned by a neighbor and on his shed, aimed at a communal car park behind their homes in Thame, Oxfordshire. After Woodard offered her a tour of her home at 87 Cromwell Avenue during construction work in 2018, Fairhurst spotted the camera mounted in the shed and was “alarmed and dismayed,” she told the court .
“In her witness statement, she described that the defendant showed her how he received alerts from his cell phone camera or smartwatch and showed her a clip of a car entering and exiting a car. parking space on her smartwatch. She said in oral testimony that she felt he was showing her because he thought she would be impressed with the technology, ”said the judgment (PDF, 49 pages )
No armed gang – but too much video surveillance
Things came to a head in April 2019 when three men (who were unarmed) attempted to steal Woodard’s car in the parking lot, also stealing the camera from his hangar. Alarmed by what he broadcast to her before being ripped from his rack, Woodard told his neighbors that an armed gang of masked thieves had entered the parking lot – and in addition to replacing the hangar camera, he has installed a new device on the wall of a house next to the access road.
The gang was unarmed. Woodard was also not telling the truth when he reassured his neighbors that the new camera was a “dummy.” When Fairhurst’s partner, Dr Ruggero Franich, took a close look at the camera lens, Woodard immediately called her, claiming that the owner he had installed it on was “in a panic” over “a strange man “outside his house.
The next morning, Fairhurst spoke to the owner, who “said she knew nothing about such activity the night before” and “had not been in contact with” Woodard.
Cromwell Avenue, Thame, showing the parking lot entrance. Fairhurst lived at number 83 on the left of the access road while Woodard lived at 87, on the right side of the house on the right. Google Street View
After a shouting match caused Fairhurst to flee his home, the CCTV fanatic later called the police on Franich, providing him with camera footage of the cops as he parked his car in the driveway. Fairhurst and collected his mail.
HHJ Clarke went on to describe Woodard as “stuck in a web of his own lies” as he tried to explain it all in court, later adding that she found his evidence “totally unbelievable” unless it was. are not supported by others.
Ring spokesperson Claudia Fellerman said The register: “We strongly encourage our customers to respect the privacy of their neighbors and to comply with all applicable laws when using their Ring device. We have implemented features on all of our devices to ensure that privacy , user control and security remain at the forefront – including customizable privacy zones to block ‘out of bounds’ areas, motion zones to control areas customers want their Ring device to detect motion and the audio toggle to activate and deactivate the sound. “
HHJ Clarke stated “… it appears from the evidence before me that although an activation zone is disabled so that the camera does not activate to film by motion in that zone, the activation by motion in any of the other non-deactivated activation zones will cause the camera to shoot over the entire field of view. “
Woodard, of 87 Cromwell Avenue, Thame, was convicted of violating the Data Protection Act 2018 and harassing Fairhurst. He gave his side of the story in an interview with the Daily Mail.
* The EU-derived GDPR is retained in UK domestic law as UK GDPR, which is based on a revised form of DPA 2018 ®