A man could be forced to pay his neighbour £100,000 in damages after his doorbell camera was deemed to have breached her privacy.
John Woodard, 45, was told by a judge that the built-in video and microphone on his smart devices broke data laws and caused harassment.
The audio-visual technician said he had originally fitted four of the Amazon-owned Ring bells, including two dummies, after thieves had attempted to steal his car in 2019.
But his neighbour Dr Mary Fairhurst claimed the internet-connected doorbells were so ‘intrusive’ she was forced to move out of her home in Thames, Oxfordshire.
The landmark ruling yesterday 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.
Ring doorbells are designed to tell absent homeowners when they have a visitor. The owner can then use an app on their phone to watch and talk to the person by using the doorbell’s built-in video and microphone.
Oxford County Court heard that the devices placed Dr Fairhurst under ‘continuous visual surveillance’.
The doctor, who lived next door to Mr Woodard for two decades, claimed he harassed her by becoming ‘aggressive’ when she complained.
Judge Melissa Clarke found Mr Woodard breached provisions of the Data Protection Act 2018 and General Data Protection Regulation.
In her ruling, she said the images and audio files of Dr Fairhurst captured on the Ring devices were classed as the doctor’s personal data, but Mr Woodard had failed to process it in a ‘fair or transparent manner’.
Mr Woodard said he was ‘extremely disappointed and shocked’ to lose the case.
He told the Mail Online that he bought the devices ‘in good faith’ to protect his home and cars.
He said: ‘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.’
In response, Ring advised device owners to ensure people know they are filmed by putting Ring stickers on their door or windows.
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