Ring Ring – Is it time for financial claims against your nosey neighbours? 

Have you noticed your Neighbours new surveillance equipment? There’s a good chance you haven’t! Spying on your neighbours is nothing new. There have always been ‘peeping Toms’ or ‘voyeurs’ if you want to be posher. They like to look at the man or woman next door whether that’s a wife, husband, partner, son, daughter or even children. 

But what’s the difference between old time ‘nosey parkers’ and the new modern ‘digitally enabled’ pervs?  Is it the level of surveillance, the capabilities, the invasiveness, the ease of set up and use?   Maybe it’s all of these things.   

Surveillance, surveillance everywhereeven in your own backyard

Over a relatively short period of time, we have adapted, been forced and comply with our personal data being recorded and monitored. 

It all started from security concerns and to avoid bombs and terrorists.   Airports and government buildings were  quickly smothered in cameras and not long afterwards nearly all the businesses in the private embraced mass video surveillance. 

We accept it.

We use it.

We are all subconsciously aware that we’re being watched.  And it’s not unusual these days to have a job interview via a Zoom or Teams meeting with the host requesting a recording option.

Maybe they use it afterwards to assess personalities or look for inconsistencies. Maybe they keep it just because they can and like the shirt you was wearing or something like that. 

Likewise, we’re forced to be recorded when we purchase goods in a supermarket. We’re given the option of not accepting a receipt and can then be stopped and ‘frisked’ and asked to produce a receipt with the supermarket flexing their video surveillance capabilities. 

Surveillance really is everywhere.  It’s easy to accept this is ‘the way it is’ but once surveillance creeps closer into our living spaces (whether that’s a house, flat, houseboat or campervan) things start to get a little ugly and even sinister. 

Under current data protection laws it’s lawful to record and monitor around your abode for security purposes for example.  Clear signs must be displayed, however. This is to alert you to the fact you are being recorded. 

Under current data protection laws it’s also your right to request any data collected about you. 

And that means video recordings. 

Most of us don’t.

But that can all change, especially if everyone is made more aware of their rights. 

Ring and Ring and Ring monitoring and Home Surveillance   

On 13 October 2021 The Sun ran an article/post of a Plumber being taken to court by his neighbour for recording her via a set up of 4 Ring Cameras. 

If you’re unaware Ring cameras are sold by Amazon and are part of a doorbell system. Video and audio are recorded once a ‘motion detector’ is activated.

Amazon have sold around 100,000 or so of these Ring systems to DIY snoopers.  On the plus side, this deters theft and enables you to see who’s at your door.

There are other uses as well such as putting video compilations together of ‘would be’ thieves caught in the act.

Just search Ring videos on Youtube.  So, yes Ring cameras have uses.   

The Sun’s article/post article in full:

A PLUMBER is terrified he will lose his home after being ordered to pay his neighbour £100,000 because his Ring doorbell allegedly invaded her privacy. 

Jon Woodard, 45, was told yesterday that he may have to pay Dr Mary Fairhurst the huge sum after a judge found his use of the cameras broke data laws and caused harassment. 

The audio-visual technician said he had originally fitted the four devices after robbers tried to steal his car in 2019.  But neighbour Dr Fairhurst, of Thame, Oxfordshire, claimed the Ring devices were “intrusive” and had left her feeling under “continuous visual surveillance.” 

Mr Woodard, who was “extremely disappointed and shocked” by the verdict, is now “petrified” he could lose everything.  He said: “This court ruling means I am probably going to have to go bankrupt and close the business down because I can’t afford £100,000, I can’t even afford £5,000. How is that fair?  “It’s going to be over £200,000 and I’m petrified.  I know I’m going to lose my house and my business, it’s horrific. I won’t ever own my own house again. 

The Ring doorbell devices, which are connected via the internet, are primarily designed to notify absent home-owner when a visitor arrives at the door.  The owner can then use an app to watch and talk to the visitor by using the doorbell’s built-in camera and microphone. 

Mr Woodard said his Ring doorbell was a lifeline during the Covid pandemic because it allowed him to interact with delivery drivers and postmen without having to answer the door.  He also feels safer knowing he and his wife can see who is at the door before they answer it.  He said: “I don’t want my partner answering the door to just anyone, obviously I get a lot of business deliveries for work and she is able to answer it safely, tell them to place it on the doorstep and she is able to pick it up.” 

Dr Fairhurst felt so strongly about Mr Woodard’s doorbell that she moved out of her home.  Oxford County Court also heard how she had felt harassed after Mr Woodard, who had been neighbours with the woman for 20 years, had become ‘aggressive’ with her when she complained.  But Mr Woodard was baffled by her complaints. 

“I could understand if it looked into her garden or into her property, but it doesn’t,” he said.  “In theory she is three houses down.  “She hasn’t lived there for years because she claimed she is in fear for her life. How can you be in fear for your life with a Ring door bell? 

‘RUINED’ 

“She has no heart and she’s evil. Half the neighbours wouldn’t come forward because they know how evil she is.” 

The devastated homeowner said the dispute, which has lasted three years until now, has been “traumatising” and “ruined” him as a person. 

He was also shocked that his neighbour, who he has helped on a number of occasions over the years, would sue him over a doorbell.  “It is a little bit absurd and not normal, Ring doorbells have been out for how long.  “I go to some client’s houses in London and their Ring doorbell looks right into their neighbours opposite them, yet they don’t have a problem.  “Yet my neighbour, who I can’t see anywhere near her property, has a problem.” 

Yesterday, Judge Melissa Clarke concluded that Mr Woodard had breached the Data Protection Act 2018 as well as General Data Protection Regulation.  She said images and audio files of Dr Fairhurst, of Thame, Oxfordshire, captured on the Ring devices were classed as her personal data. 

The landmark ruling is believed to be first of its kind in the UK and could set a precedent for the estimated 100,000 owners of the Ring smart doorbell nationally. 

Amazon, who distribute the Ring devices, have since advised owners to ensure people know they are being filmed by putting Ring stickers on their door or windows. 

Source: The Sun 

Drivewaywise Analysis: 

The landmark ruling is believed to be first of its kind in the UK and could set a precedent for the estimated 100,000 owners of the Ring smart doorbell nationally. 

That’s all the analysis that’s needed really.

The only takeaway necessary.  Do you have a neighbor with a Ring camera? Do they have clear signs/stickers admitting their surveillance?   If you suspect a neigbour is recording you secretly there are a number of devices to detect this. 

What you can do if your neighbour is a Ringer?

If you feel that a neighbour’s Ring camera (or any other CCTV/video recording equipment) is recording you – ask them if they are and to provide recordings. 

If anything, this will (or should) make them think carefully about recording you or your property. 

If a camera is on the public footpath or any other publicly accessible area you can ask for all video recordings if you have walked by or been ‘captured’.  

If a neighbor refuses to cooperate you can bring a claim much like the individual in this case and use this court judgement to back things up. 

Conclusion:  It’s simply wrong that people think they can spy on their neighbours  and not be accountable. Whilst there are many honest and decent uses for surveillance there must be accountability for its use.

The judgement in this case will set precedent for others that feel intimidated, harassed and spyed upon.  An example of common sense and decency prevailing. 

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