Is it legal to record security camera and smart doorbell footage at your home?


Walk down any UK street and it won’t be long before you see security cameras and smart doorbells installed on someone’s home. 

These internet-connected devices can increase security, and also help you manage your life more easily, such as greeting visitors from your phone while away. 

However, when installing any video and audio recording device you need to consider your data protection responsibilities. Read on for how to ensure your home security set-up doesn’t get you in hot water with the law. 

Our expert smart doorbell reviews and wireless security camera reviews can help you shop with confidence.

Is it legal to record video at your home?

Yes, it is, but with some caveats. Under data protection laws there is a responsibility to take precautions when processing the personal data of other living individuals, including when using video and audio recording devices. 

These rules do not apply if your security camera or doorbell films solely within the boundaries of your private property. 

If you have a camera that just points at your private driveway, for example, or covers solely your back garden, then you do not need to worry as you won’t be capturing any other private individuals (although, it is worth considering invited visitors and guests when using these devices). 

If the camera records outside that boundary, such as the street or neighbouring homes or gardens, then you do have responsibilities under the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). This is because you could be capturing audio and video containing other people’s private data. 

There are ways to ensure that your cameras don’t capture outside your property, such as adjusting the field of recording or setting ‘privacy zones’, but often it is hard in packed neighborhoods to completely ensure cameras don’t film beyond your home. 

Under data protection legislation, anyone captured on footage from your camera has the right to ask for a copy, have it erased or request for them not to be filmed in the future. However, if you are careful and respectful, and follow the advice below, the situation should never get to such a scenario. 

Our guide on 10 genuinely useful things you can do with a wireless security camera shows how versatile these smart devices can be.

What’s the law around smart doorbells?

Ring Video Doorbell smart doorbell

While security cameras can be placed in various locations, including at the rear of properties and even inside, smart doorbells typically are installed on the front door. This means there is a high likelihood that the doorbell will record into the street ahead.

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. 

See below how to set up your cameras and doorbells to ensure you always stay within your legal responsibilities, and keep your neighbours happy. 

Get more from your smart tech with our guide on 10 genuinely useful things you can do with a smart doorbell.

How do I ensure my cameras stay within the law? 

wireless security camera

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. 

News, deals and stuff the manuals don’t tell you. Sign up for our Tech newsletter, it’s free monthly.

What can I do if I suspect a neighbour is filming me or my property?

If you are on the other end of the lens, and your neighbour is filming part of your property and that is causing some concern, you have a number of options. 

First, you should contact the person and express why you are concerned about the recording. You could do this in person, although sending them a letter outlining your position records this on paper. 

You should ask why their CCTV needs to film part of your property and see if it was possible to reposition the cameras, or even come to some sort of shared agreement over filming (eg the cameras cover both your personal property to increase security). 

You have the right to request to see what they are recording, and this might potentially assuage your concerns over how intrusive the filming actually is by their cameras. If you can’t find a middle ground, you could contact the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), or even the police if the situation escalates into potential harassment. 

Do I need to surrender footage from smart devices to the police? 

Police visiting a home after burglar alarm triggered 465030

If you’ve watched a crime documentary recently, chances are it included footage from a home security camera or smart doorbell. 

As the cameras often film beyond the boundaries of a property (see above for how to do this legally), they can often capture crimes in progress. Police will occasionally request to see footage if they see you have cameras installed, but as there is no specific law stating that you must share camera footage, you can refuse to do so. 

However, if police successfully secure a search warrant from a court they can force you to share it, or face the consequences. Most people are happy to cooperate, though, rather than kick up a fuss.

Don’t let hackers snoop on your camera footage

Hacker 468630

We’ve exposed numerous smart devices that can be easily hacked over the years, bringing threats to your security and privacy. 

Don’t just assume that if a device is on sale, it’s secure. We rigorously test every product for cybersecurity and data privacy, so you can buy with confidence. Plus, if we know how long the brand will support the product with vital security updates, we publish this information (sadly, too many say nothing at all).

All wireless security cameras and smart doorbells that we test are fully checked for how they protect your from hackers, as well as work effectively to increase your home security. 

Read our guides on how to stop your smart doorbell from being hacked and how to stop your wireless security camera from being hacked for more information.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *