My neighbor has a Ring security light with a built-in camera on the back of their house, which I can see from my window below.
There is a high fence between the properties and it feels like you have complete privacy, but I recently noticed that if I can see the light and the camera, he might be able to see me too.
Will the camera just look down and straight ahead, or do they have wide angle lenses? Can my neighbors see through my window and into my house?
It feels a bit strange to ask about this, because I don’t want to accuse them of spying on me. Via email
A Ring Security Light and Camera: What Should You Do If You’re Afraid Neighbors Will See Your Home?
Grace Gausden, This is Money, answers: Home security is incredibly important, but so is maintaining privacy on your property. Your question has been emailed to us after a number of stories about smart doorbells and cameras, including whether they make your home safer and whether burglars can see them as a sign of a house full of gadgets.
Many people now install CCTV at their homes to deter burglars, while others have smart doorbells or security lights that allow them to see who is outside their property, whether they are at home or not.
Your neighbor has a Ring security light, one of the most popular brands, and while you’re not sure of the exact model, their website says some of their products have a motion-activated camera and two-way audio.
This means that they can see, hear and speak to everyone on their premises via their mobile phone.
One of the models also has a 140-degree field of view, allowing users to detect movement around corners and monitor blind spots. The camera can also be zoomed in and out.
While it is a wise choice for your neighbors to protect themselves and their home, now you think they can see through the camera in your window below.
This raises questions about both privacy and data protection.
According to the Information Commissioners Office, anyone considering using private CCTV should ensure that they do so in a way that respects the privacy of others.
It says, “If you set up your system to only capture images within the confines of your private home ownership, including your yard, then the data protection laws will not apply to you.”
However, if the camera’s field of view is beyond the confines of the home, GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018 will apply and users must ensure that their use of CCTV is in compliance with these laws.
They can still take images, but must follow rules such as deleting other people’s images if they request it; post a sign to show that they have CCTV surveillance; and ensuring the security of the images they capture so that no one can view it without good reason.
While security is useful in the event of break-ins, it can mean that neighbors lack privacy
If your neighbors can indeed see into your home, they should only keep the footage for as long as they need and regularly delete files when they are no longer needed.
All of this means that you have the right to talk to your neighbors about this and find out what the situation is.
If they can see inside, you can politely ask that they don’t use footage of your property without permission, or even ask if they can move it slightly so you don’t fall within their line of sight.
Advice to Ring users
This is money that Ring asked what they thought and in response it has provided the following advice to users to help them meet legal responsibilities.
It says the devices are not intended for installation where the camera captures someone else’s property or public areas.
1) We strongly encourage customers to make sure guests know they are being captured on video. In all packs of Ring devices you will find free Ring stickers to stick on your door or windows. We recommend using these to let guests know they’re in the picture.
For clients living in shared premises, we encourage them to notify their neighbors, building owner, property manager, housing association, etc. before installing their new appliance.
2) We are constantly pursuing our commitment to privacy, security and user control and have implemented (and continue to roll out) several features that demonstrate this commitment:
– With motion zonescustomers can serve the areas they want their Ring device to detect motion. By defining motion zones that exclude their neighbors’ property or public areas, such as public sidewalks and roads, customers focus their notifications on events taking place on their own property.
– The habits audio switching functionWith Ring devices, customers can decide whether to stream and record audio. When a customer turns off audio, they can no longer hear audio when the device records a motion event, a live view, or an answered ringtone.
– With the privacy zones functiona customer can define an area within the field of view of their Ring device camera that they consider “off-limits”. Once a privacy zone is created, nothing that happens within that defined area can be viewed or recorded.
We also asked security experts for advice on how to comply with the rules when using a doorbell security camera and whether you should address your neighbor.
Brandon Wilkes, digital marketing manager at The Big Phone Store, responds: Ring actually has a variety of different cameras with different lenses, including wide angle, so it’s hard to tell if the camera can see through your window.
As uncomfortable as it may be, entering into a dialogue about your concern is the best way to move forward and confirm with your own eyes if possible.
Ring has a built-in privacy masking feature that can prevent your camera from filming areas you shouldn’t be for situations like this.
It’s also illegal in the UK to film someone in an area where they should expect privacy – your home is a prime example – so you can rest easy knowing that if you can’t directly mediate the situation with your neighbor, you will have several have ways to safeguard your privacy.
Kate Bevan, which one? computer editor, replies: Whether a security camera can capture images of adjacent properties depends on where it is placed, but some claim to have a horizontal view of 140 degrees, so it’s a possibility.
While data protection laws do not apply if the camera only covers the user’s private property, they do apply when images are captured outside this boundary, for example on the street or in nearby properties.
If a domestic CCTV camera films outside the boundary of the user’s home, data protection laws say it should be justified. The law creates obligations, including warning others that there is a camera system, storing images securely and only keeping them for as long as necessary.
Grace Gausden, This is Money, adds: The best way to move forward is to just bite the bullet and talk to your neighbor to find out exactly what they can or can’t see about your property.
If nothing is wrong, the problem is solved. But if they can see, check out exactly what they can see and if it invades your privacy.
They may only be able to see in a little bit, this is probably not a big problem. But if they have a full view through your downstairs window, ask if they can adjust the camera angle, or use some of the tips Ring gave above to say they can’t see you.
While very unlikely to get to this point, they could be subject to enforcement action by the ICO if they refuse and fail to comply with obligations under data protection laws. This can include a fine.
They can also be subject to legal action by neighbors, who can file legal claims for damages.
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