Are you breaching Data Protection Laws and GDPR with your video doorbell?

We can see the increase in popular home CCTV devices through the likes of “Ring Doorbell” and “Google Nest” as homeowners wish to protect their properties. However, individuals with such devices must be cautious as the recent case of Fairhurst v Woodard [2021] 10 WLUK
151 passed judgement that the Defendant, Mr Woodard had breached both the UK Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA) and General Data Protection Regulation 2016 (GDPR) through the use of his home video surveillance.

Mr Woodard had installed four video camera devices at his property: on the shed, driveway, gable end wall, and front garden windowsill. He was able to monitor who was present at his property and its surroundings, at any given time. Such data was immediately available via
his mobile phone app and was recorded visually and orally. His neighbour, Dr Fairhurst claimed that the cameras were intruding on her privacy as it was recording the front and back of her property, shared driveway and her parking space - whichfell beyond the boundaries of Mr Woodard’s property.

Dr Fairhurst was also misled by Mr Woodard as to the cameras functionality and extent of coverage. The Oxford Court ruled that
as the audio and video recording went beyond Mr Woodard’s boundary, he did not process data in a fair nor transparent manner, and he did not lawfully process Dr Fairhurst’s data. Therefore, he was in breach of the DPA and GDPR. Furthermore, when Dr Fairhurst had
questioned Mr Woodard about the CCTV, Mr Woodard became hostile and the Court had further ruled that the hostile conduct amounted to harassment.

Alongside the successful claims for breach of data and harassment, Dr Fairhurst had also brought a claim of nuisance by loss of privacy which had failed. The Court of Appeal had rejected a similar claim in the case of Fearn and Ors v.Board of Trustees of the Tate Gallery
[2020] EWCA Civ 1 whereby flat owners claimed sections of the viewing gallery of Tate Modern had unreasonably interfered with the enjoyment of their flats, as the two were adjacent and visitors had an uninterrupted view of the flats. It was ruled that overlooking
from one property to another is not capable of giving rise to a cause of action in nuisance.

This case however is being appealed at the Supreme Court on 8 th December 2021.

The case of Fairhurst v Woodard

The case of Fairhurst v Woodard is similar to the European Court of Justice case of František Ryneš v Úřad pro ochranu osobních údajů, Case C-212/13, whereby Mr Rynes was fined by the Czech authorities for infringing data protection rules as his home video
security systems filmed individuals on a public footpath.

Fairhurst v Woodard is the first case on domestic CCTV in England and Waled, it highlights that we must be mindful of the DPA and GDPR as to the implications of video surveillance at home. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) have published clear guidance
whereby: ‘when devices capture images of people outside an individual’s property
boundary, GDPR does apply’.

Homeowners must seek a balance between the safety concerns of themselves and the privacy concerns of their neighbours.