Data Protection studies the fit in Spain of Ring, Amazon’s smart doorbell | Technology
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Amazon’s Ring Doorbell video door entry systems are facing their first litmus test in Spain. These devices, very popular in the US, are under the scrutiny of the Spanish Agency for Data Protection (AEPD), as EL PAÍS has learned. The AEPD decided to admit a claim filed not against Ring, but against a business that used Amazon’s smart doorbell. The result of the agency’s investigations may be decisive for the future of the device in the Spanish market, since if the process ends in a sanction, a cascade of similar complaints may occur.
Ring Doorbell is a small device that is installed on the front door of the house as a bell. It consists of a button, the doorbell, and a video camera. This is activated every time it detects movement in front of it or when someone knocks on the door. In the latter case, the user can see from his mobile or tablet who the visitor is, talk to him and even open the door for him, in case the system connects to the lock. The recordings can be shared and are kept for a time that, depending on the subscription paid by the user, can reach up to six months. The product is very popular in the US, where in 2020, two years after going on sale, a million and a half units had already been placed. Asked by this newspaper, the company prefers not to give data on how many devices have been sold so far in Spain.
From a legal point of view, its use raises a key question: what happens to people who are recorded by the video camera without their consent? Right now, the Agency has open preliminary investigation actions precisely for this reason. In legal jargon, this means that it is in the process of analyzing whether there are sufficient indications of infraction to open a sanctioning procedure against the business (not against Ring). If there are none, the claim is archived; if yes, the sanctioning procedure is opened, against which it is possible to claim.
“If it is shown that the camera does not focus beyond the short distance, I do not think that neither the reported business nor Ring will have problems,” legal sources point out regarding the investigation. The problem raised is similar to when a security camera is installed facing the street instead of the door: the misuse of the device ends up being sanctioned, not the device or the manufacturer.
The technology company bought by Amazon has already been taken to court on other occasions in Europe. A judge agreed last year with a citizen of Oxfordshire, England, who denounced her neighbor for having recorded her with a Ring video intercom. She complained that the device focused on her garage and part of her garden. The judge found that the smart doorbell camera was indeed “unjustifiably invading” her right to privacy and fined her neighbor. Amazon put out a statement stressing that its customers should make sure they use the products in accordance with the law.
That is the company’s answer to the question of whether its products can pose a threat to the privacy of third parties: it all depends on how their customers use them. “Ring strongly encourages our users to respect the privacy of their neighbors and comply with applicable laws when using their device. Ring products are not designed to capture another person’s property or public areas.” “Ring customers are ultimately responsible for using their devices appropriately, avoiding public spaces and neighboring properties, if necessary,” they add.
The American Exception
In the US, on the other hand, the jurisprudence defends that anyone can record what they like as long as it is within their property. In the absence of a federal privacy law, the equivalent of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), it is very difficult to get any recording removed from social media unless it is proven that they have caused economic loss to some individual, as collected wired.
Europe is for Ring “a priority market”. Although the company’s spokespersons do not give sales data for their devices on either side of the Atlantic, they do hint at their confidence in growing in Europe. They also deny that the Ring Doorbell is designed exclusively for single-family homes, which are very common in the US.
The technology company sells products in that country that have not reached Europe. Among them the Neighbors application, which allows you to create a community of neighbors in which alerts are exchanged and information is shared with other Ring device users. Last year Always Home Cam, a drone camera that moves around the home on predefined routes, was also put on sale in the US.
But the biggest controversy in which the company has been involved has to do with the leaking of recordings from Ring cameras to the police in the US. Estimates by the media in that country range from 400 to 1,771 police departments that the CNET portal tells), who would have received Ring cameras for free and the possibility of requesting the recordings that interest them from individuals. Police only have access to customer video recordings if a customer has an optional Ring Protect Plan and chooses to download and share the recordings. As published Political Two weeks ago, however, Amazon released images of its smart doorbells without their owners’ consent at least 11 times so far this year.
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