A victory for privacy: Woman could get up to £100k in damages over neighbours doorbell cameras – Daily Mail

A female doctor is set to be paid more than £100,000 after a judge ruled that her neighbour’s Ring smart doorbell cameras breached her privacy in a landmark legal battle which could pave the way for thousands of lawsuits over the Amazon-owned device. 

A judge found that Jon Woodard’s use of his cameras broke data laws and amounted to harassment of Dr Mary Fairhurst, who claimed she was forced to move out of her home in Thame, Oxfordshire because the internet-connected gadgets are so ‘intrusive’.

The doorbells, owned by US giant Amazon, notify the absent homeowner via a smartphone when a visitor arrives at the door. The owner can then use an app to watch and talk to the visitor by using the doorbell’s built-in camera and microphone. 

Audio-visual technician Mr Woodard insisted that he fitted four devices, including two ‘dummies,’ around his property to protect his vehicles from masked thieves who tried to steal his car in 2019. But holistic healthcare company director Dr Fairhurst told Oxford County Court that the devices placed her under ‘continuous visual surveillance.’

Yesterday’s ruling is thought to be the first of its kind in the UK and could set precedent for more than 100,000 owners of the Ring doorbell nationally.  

Dr Mary Fairhurst (right, with a friend at Oxford County Court) who claimed the cameras on a neighbour’s smart doorbells breached her privacy won a landmark legal battle yesterday

Dr Mary Fairhurst (right, with a friend at Oxford County Court) who claimed the cameras on a neighbour’s smart doorbells breached her privacy won a landmark legal battle yesterday

Dr Mary Fairhurst (right, with a friend at Oxford County Court) who claimed the cameras on a neighbour’s smart doorbells breached her privacy won a landmark legal battle yesterday

Jon Woodard, 45, (left, with his partner Nicola Copelin) may have to pay Dr Fairhurst more than £100,000 in damages after a judge found his use of the cameras broke data laws and amounted to harassment

Jon Woodard, 45, (left, with his partner Nicola Copelin) may have to pay Dr Fairhurst more than £100,000 in damages after a judge found his use of the cameras broke data laws and amounted to harassment

Jon Woodard, 45, (left, with his partner Nicola Copelin) may have to pay Dr Fairhurst more than £100,000 in damages after a judge found his use of the cameras broke data laws and amounted to harassment

The internet-connected devices notify the absent home owner via a smartphone when a visitor arrives at the door. The owner can then use an app to watch and talk to the visitor by using the doorbell’s built-in camera and microphone

A female doctor is set to be paid more than £100,000 after a judge ruled that her neighbour's Ring smart doorbell cameras breached her privacy in a landmark legal battle yesterday

A female doctor is set to be paid more than £100,000 after a judge ruled that her neighbour's Ring smart doorbell cameras breached her privacy in a landmark legal battle yesterday

A female doctor is set to be paid more than £100,000 after a judge ruled that her neighbour’s Ring smart doorbell cameras breached her privacy in a landmark legal battle yesterday

Audio-visual technician Mr Woodard insisted that he fitted four devices, including two 'dummies,' around his property to protect his vehicles from masked thieves who tried to steal his car in 2019

Audio-visual technician Mr Woodard insisted that he fitted four devices, including two 'dummies,' around his property to protect his vehicles from masked thieves who tried to steal his car in 2019

Audio-visual technician Mr Woodard insisted that he fitted four devices, including two 'dummies,' around his property to protect his vehicles from masked thieves who tried to steal his car in 2019

Audio-visual technician Mr Woodard insisted that he fitted four devices, including two 'dummies,' around his property to protect his vehicles from masked thieves who tried to steal his car in 2019

Audio-visual technician Mr Woodard insisted that he fitted four devices, including two ‘dummies,’ around his property to protect his vehicles from masked thieves who tried to steal his car in 2019

Ring doorbells: Amazon’s WiFi-enabled smart devices… and what yesterday’s landmark ruling means for YOU

Ring creates Wi-Fi enabled doorbells which notify absent homeowner via a smartphone when a visitor arrives at the door

Ring creates Wi-Fi enabled doorbells which notify absent homeowner via a smartphone when a visitor arrives at the door

Ring creates Wi-Fi enabled doorbells which notify absent homeowner via a smartphone when a visitor arrives at the door

Ring creates Wi-Fi enabled doorbells which notify absent homeowner via a smartphone when a visitor arrives at the door. 

The owner can then use an app to watch and talk to the visitor by using the Amazon-owned doorbell’s built-in camera and microphone.  

California-based Ring first caught the spotlight with a failed quest for funding about five years ago on reality television show Shark Tank. It was later acquired by Amazon for a reported £700million ($1billion). 

However, yesterday’s landmark ruling could pave the way for thousands of lawsuits over alleged breaches of the device. Judge Melissa Clarke found that Mr Woodard had breached the provisions of the Data Protection Act 2018 and UK GDPR.

In her ruling, the judge said the images and audio files of Dr Fairhurst captured on the Ring devices were classed as her personal data. She found that Mr Woodard, had failed to process her data in a ‘fair or transparent manner’ in accordance with his role as a ‘data controller’ as laid out by the Information Commissioner.

Judge Clarke said Mr Woodard had ‘sought to actively mislead the Claimant about how and whether the Cameras operated and what they captured.’

She concluded that Mr Woodard had collected data outside the boundaries of his property.

The woman, who had lived peacefully next to Mr Woodard for two decades, claimed he had harassed her by becoming ‘aggressive’ when she complained to him about the cameras, the court heard. 

Judge Melissa Clarke yesterday found that Mr Woodard had breached the provisions of the Data Protection Act 2018 and UK GDPR.

Dr Fairhurst is now entitled to compensation and orders preventing the Mr Woodard from continuing to breach her rights with his security devices.

In her ruling, Judge Clarke said the images and audio files of Dr Fairhurst captured on the Ring devices were classed as her personal data.

She found that Mr Woodard, had failed to process her data in a ‘fair or transparent manner’ in accordance with his role as a ‘data controller’ as laid out by the Information Commissioner.

Judge Clarke said Mr Woodard had ‘sought to actively mislead the Claimant about how and whether the Cameras operated and what they captured.’

She concluded that Mr Woodard had collected data outside the boundaries of his property and, refering to the shed camera, added: ‘I am satisfied that on many occasions it [the shed camera] had a very wide field of view and captured the Claimant’s personal data as she drove in and out of the car park.’

Mr Woodard had also installed a driveway camera, which he claimed was a dummy. The judge dismissed his claim and ruled that the device captured images and audio on Dr Fairhurst’s property including her gate, garden and car parking spaces.

The judge dismissed Mr Woodard’s claim that the driveway camera was used legitmately to deter thieves from stealing his car. She said that ‘crime prevention, could surely be achieved by something less’ than the device.

Taking particular issue with the camera’s audio range, she added: ‘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 crime prevention.’

Speaking after yesterday’s remote hearing, Mr Woodard said he was ‘extremely disappointed and shocked’ by the judge’s decision.

He told the Daily Mail: ‘I purchased a ring doorbell and ring motion activated camera in 2019, in good faith to protect my property and vehicles.

‘To now be told these are harassment devices feels like a joke and I myself feel like I am being harassed. Many of my neighbours have cameras and smart doorbells.’

Mr Woodard also said the decision went against current guidance from police forces, many of which have appealed for video doorbells footage to help gather criminal evidence.

He said: ‘I wonder if the police will now still be able to appeal to the public to check their smart doorbells, cctv, and dashcams in order to assist them solve crime, and use to assist convictions.’ 

Dr Fairhurst is now entitled to compensation and orders preventing the Mr Woodard from continuing to breach her rights with his security devices

Dr Fairhurst is now entitled to compensation and orders preventing the Mr Woodard from continuing to breach her rights with his security devices

Dr Fairhurst is now entitled to compensation and orders preventing the Mr Woodard from continuing to breach her rights with his security devices

In response to the ruling, Amazon-owned Ring advised device owners to ensure people know they are filmed by putting Ring stickers on their door or windows

In response to the ruling, Amazon-owned Ring advised device owners to ensure people know they are filmed by putting Ring stickers on their door or windows

In response to the ruling, Amazon-owned Ring advised device owners to ensure people know they are filmed by putting Ring stickers on their door or windows

Mr Woodard also raised concerns for other ring doorbell owners after the ruling

Mr Woodard also raised concerns for other ring doorbell owners after the ruling

Mr Woodard also raised concerns for other ring doorbell owners after the ruling

Mr Woodard also raised concerns for other ring doorbell owners after the ruling, adding: ‘I feel for the tens of thousands of homeowners with ring home security who could now be targeted in the same manner I have.’

In response to the ruling, Amazon-owned Ring asked customers to ensure guests know they are being captured on video by putting Ring stickers to put on their door or windows.

A spokesperson for the California-based company said: ‘We strongly encourage our customers to respect their neighbours’ privacy and comply with any applicable laws when using their Ring device. 

‘We’ve put features in place across all our devices to ensure privacy, security, and user control remain front and centre – including customisable Privacy Zones to block out ‘off-limit’ areas, Motion Zones to control the areas customers want their Ring device to detect motion and Audio Toggle to turn audio on and off.’

The damages payable to Dr Fairhurst are expected to be confirmed in a court hearing in November. 

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