“I am satisfied that the
extent of range to which these devices can capture audio is well beyond the
range of video that they capture, and in my view cannot be said to be
reasonable for the purpose for which the devices are used by the Defendant,
since the legitimate aim for which they are said to be used, namely crime
prevention, could surely be achieved by something less. A great deal of the
purpose could be achieved without audio at all, as is the case with the bulk
of CCTV systems in use in public places in this country, or by a microphone that only picks up sound within a small diameter of the device.
Melissa Clarke HHJ. at p.137
That finding means that I am satisfied that the processing of such audio
data by the Defendant as data controller is not lawful. The extent of the
range means that personal data may be captured from people who are not
even aware that the device is there, or that it records and processes audio
personal data, or that it can do so from such a distance away, in breach of
the first principle.”
In Fairhurst a neighbour complained that use of several cameras, including a Ring doorbell, amounted to nusiance, harassment and breach of the Data Protection Act 2018.
The claims of harassment and data protection succeeded. It was, in particular, noted that the audio recording capabilities of the devices were much broader in than the video recording capability. As the above quote shows, the extent processing of the audio recording data was such that it was unlawful under data protection laws.
The audio recording capability of the Ring device extended 40-68ft (12-20m).
Amazon released a statement following the finding in the case: “We strongly encourage our customers to respect their neighbours’ privacy and comply with any applicable laws when using their Ring product.”
The case serves as a cautionary tale for those seeking to implement surveillance around their homes that impinge upon their neighbours.