A ban on video-enabled doorbells in council flats should be considered to protect tenants’ privacy, it has been argued.
Aberdeen North MP Kirsty Blackman says cameras filming communal stairwells and hallways are breaking the law and should not be allowed.
The gadgets, such as those produced by Ring and Google Nest, let residents see who is knocking on their door, without having to answer it first, through a remote video feed.
Many use motion detection to automatically record passers-by, acting similarly to a CCTV camera.
But Ms Blackman says the devices raise “significant data protection issues” and wants new rules in place to safeguard people’s privacy.
Her comments came after several constituents contacted Aberdeen councillor Miranda Radley, worried about how the doorbells are being used.
While the city council does not have a specific policy on them, it says any tenants would need permission to install one first, adding its stance is “consistent with current legislation”.
Video doorbells: What are the rules?
According to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), any cameras which capture footage outside someone’s property boundary need to comply with specific data laws.
In the case of a communal hallway, where the area is not owned by tenants, this would require installing signs alerting people to the use of CCTV, and ensuring any recordings are stored securely then deleted when no longer needed.
Additionally, anyone filmed has the right to obtain any footage of themselves or ask for it to be deleted within one month – unless it is needed for a “genuine legal dispute”.
The ICO says anyone who does not comply with the laws could face a fine, or potentially face court action and need to pay compensation.
It has suggested, rather than using video equipment to deter crime, residents may be better off installing new locks, security lighting or an alarm system instead.
‘Consultation is required’
Ms Radley, who represents the Nigg, Kincorth and Cove ward, has called on the local authority to speak to residents and see if its policies should be updated.
“I’ve had a number of constituents concerned with the use of home video security systems and video-enabled doorbells in communal areas of Aberdeen City Council flats,” she added.
“Officers have informed me that there is no specific policy to cover the use of these devices so I believe it is something we need to look into.
“Ultimately, we need to ensure we get any policy right for our tenants, so I believe a consultation with residents and relevant stakeholders is required to ensure consistent guidance is provided to tenants across the city.”
There are significant data protection issues here. I would request again that @AberdeenCC take this issue seriously and put in place a blanket policy to ensure that tenants cannot be filmed without their consent.
— Kirsty Blackman (@KirstySNP) April 28, 2021
Ms Blackman said: “Data protection legislation is clear that proportionality has to be considered prior to the introduction of any measures.
“There can be no justification for filming or retaining the footage of individuals who are simply walking past on the way to their own property.
“It is disappointing to see that Aberdeen City Council has not addressed the use of these devices in its current policy guidance and this must be addressed. ”
An Aberdeen City Council spokesman said: “Our policy is consistent with current legislation and we are working to provide guidance on ICO requirements to tenants seeking to install such equipment.”