A number of us have installed smart doorbells and security cameras on our homes to help protect our properties, but could yours be breaking the law?

The devices can increase security, but when installing them you must make sure you consider the laws around data protection to ensure you don’t fall foul of the law.

While the rules do not apply if your device records only what is within the boundaries of your property, if it records onto the street, you have responsibilities under GDPR law.

Is my smart doorbell breaking the law?

If your camera or doorbell records video and audio outside of your property boundary, such as neighbouring homes, gardens or the street, then you could be capturing footage containing other people’s private data.

Herts Advertiser: Does your smart doorbell record your street or a neighbouring home? If so you could be breaking the lawDoes your smart doorbell record your street or a neighbouring home? If so you could be breaking the law (Image: Getty)

Consumer experts Which? explained: “In 2021, a judge ruled that an Oxfordshire man had broken data laws over his placement of multiple smart doorbells and security cameras at his property that also covered a neighbour's home.

“The judge not only expressed concern over the video recording capacity of the devices beyond his property, but also the fact that they could capture audio potentially more than 60 feet from the device.

“However, the background to the Oxfordshire case was a long-running dispute between the parties involving what was described as a sustained campaign of harassment.”

How to avoid your smart doorbell breaking the law

There are easy ways to avoid falling foul of GDPR laws.

These are Which?’s top tips to protect yourself when installing a smart doorbell or security cameras.

Consider placement: When installing your cameras and doorbells, always consider what they are recording. What's captured in the view, including your neighbour's property or very obviously parts of the public street? Are you using a wide angle lens? What's recorded in terms of sound?

Use privacy features: A lot of cameras and doorbells have built in privacy features, such as the capacity to create 'privacy zones' where the camera won't record. They will still capture audio, however, such as potentially private conversations. 

Consult your neighbours: Explain why you want to install the cameras (crime prevention, convenience, etc) and let them know what, if anything, will be recorded from their property. If the cameras are already up, you could show them the video stream on your phone to ease concerns.

Be reasonable: It is your responsibility to ensure that the scope of your video and audio recording is reasonable for the purpose, so always bear that in mind when setting up your home security equipment. If your neighbour is concerned, consider shifting the position of cameras, tweaking settings or coming to a mutually agreeable compromise.

Warning sign: You can't realistically gain individual consent from everyone who walks past your house and is captured on your devices. Instead, consider putting up a sign that is visible from the street warning people that a CCTV-like system is in operation at your home.

Delete unused footage: Anyone captured on your cameras has the right to review the footage and request that it is deleted. However, it is also a good habit for you to regularly delete footage that is no longer required so that it is not sitting on a hard drive for long periods of time containing other people's personal data.