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Smart homes, surveillance cameras and your legal responsibilities

Smart homes, surveillance cameras and your legal responsibilities

Posted on 12th June 2020

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security camerasA recent survey by US firm Strategy Analytics suggests that almost 30% of “smart homes” in the US, UK, Germany and France have surveillance cameras. That may not sound a lot, if you assume that most houses are not ‘smart,’ but it turns out that actually a large number of our homes display this level of “intelligence.”  Obviously, it all depends on how you define a smart home, but a survey carried out just over a year ago, for “Smart Home Week,” supported by leading brands including, Amazon, Google, Yale, Philips Hue, Ring, Samsung SmartThings, tado and Swinton Insurance, suggests that more than 15 million of the UK’s homes fall into this category by virtue of having at least one smart device.  That means that four in ten of us live in one of these clever piles of bricks and mortar.

Unsurprisingly, the main reasons given for having a surveillance camera at your house are that they make home-owners feel more secure and consequently give them and their families peace of mind. 

Across the four countries surveyed by Strategy Analytics, the most popular devices were those of Nest, Amazon (via Blink and Ring), and Arlo.  In the UK, Hive cameras were marginally more popular than Nest and Arlo. One interesting result of this study is that that surveillance cameras are not the most popular device: that “honour” goes to smart thermostats. A year ago, it was reported there were 14.3 million smart meters, which supports the Strategy Analytics study and also means there are a lot of security cameras out there…  Which is fine, but suppose your neighbour is using his/her camera to spy on you (or anyone else, come to that)?  What does the law say?

Well, it’s quite simple really, as this comes under the 2018 GDPR legislation, which notes that although the use of domestic security cameras is exempt under this act, this is only providing the field of view is limited to the householder’s own property. If you are capturing images beyond your property, you must have a clear and justifiable reason for doing so and if you were questioned by the Information Commissioner’s Office you would need to be able to explain what are your reasons.  You can find guidance at this link.

Perhaps the key section of the government’s guidance is this:

·       it is your responsibility to make sure that the CCTV system is installed correctly

·       you are also responsible for all the information that is recorded by your system

·       you must make sure that the information is not used for any other purpose than protecting your property

·       make sure you read the manual, and if necessary, ask your installer to show you how to operate it and how to export footage if required

  • you will need to be aware of individuals’ data protection rights and make sure you take steps to allow the people you record to exercise these rights effectively (for example, you will need to respond appropriately to any subject access requests you receive from the people you record)

With our strong traditions of freedom in the UK, allied to what I believe is most people’s aversion to the idea of Big Brother watching us (even if it’s the wee brother next door), this is an area that needs, if you’ll pardon the pun, careful watching.   But in the meantime, it behoves all of us who have installed security cameras to make sure we know our responsibilities as regards their use.

Scott Bentley, Be-IT

Posted in News, Opinion

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