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Security and Data Protection Laws

Generative AI image of a security camera outside a home looking into the street
Author: Samuel Beckingham
Updated: Sep 20, 2023
3 minutes read

Do you own a security system that can record sound as well as picture? You need to be aware of data protection laws to avoid getting into any trouble. With the potential to pick up sound and picture outside the boundary of your home, there is a chance that your security system could cause legal issues.

The Need to Be Careful

On the face of it, these security systems are perfectly acceptable and act as a great deterrent for your home. They do, however, have to be installed in such a way that you’re not infringing on your neighbours’ privacy. These devices shouldn’t be recording into another person’s home or record noise or sound going on in a neighbouring property.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) stresses that consumers have a right to install CCTV cameras and smart doorbells on their property but that this should be done with due consideration. Depending on how the technology is deployed, there are several potential privacy concerns that can arise.

What to Avoid

Where others have a right to privacy, such as in their own back gardens or doorways, cameras should not be able to record images or audio from these areas. Cameras put up in public spaces or that overlook another person’s private space can be problematic.

Cameras should be pointed away from neighbours’ homes and gardens, as well as shared areas or public spaces. Where this isn’t possible, it’s not illegal to have them installed. You just have to be mindful about how the system is used. Covert recording, even sound, can cause issues that could potentially result in court action.

How to Comply With Data Protection

If you do have a smart doorbell or external CCTV, you should make sure the following rules apply to comply with data protection laws:

  • Others must know recording equipment is in use (i.e., through signage)

  • If asked, share or delete recordings (in most circumstances)

  • Delete recorded footage regularly or automatically

  • If asked, to stop recording someone (if possible). There are exemptions for keeping a property safe

These will only be applicable if your camera records outside the boundary of your property. Some cameras even come with the appropriate warning stickers for this very reason. Others allow you to blur out certain areas that are being recorded, such as some else’s windows or doors.

Learn more about home security systems.

Am I Covered?

The majority of the time, using a smart doorbell or security camera will be no cause for concern. If your camera is installed in an area that causes a bit of tension or concern to neighbours, you must ensure you are complying with the rules outlined above. If not, the affected party could refer you to the ICO or even take you to court.

However, the ICO only has a limited amount of force that it can offer to intervene. The body even says it is highly unlikely that it will take enforcement action against a domestic CCTV user. So while the ICO might only intervene in exceptional circumstances, the real danger is in court action. As long as you are compliant and not recording areas outside of your property unnecessarily, you will be safe. It is not illegal to record images and audio around your property for the purposes of security.

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