Video Doorbells And Privacy Maintaining A Balance

Dated: September 26 2019

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Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

Advancing technology has played a large part in improving home security in recent years. This is due, in part, to the rising popularity of the Internet of Things, or IoT; these “Things” are devices that connect via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or other wireless networks to perform various functions without the need to be hard-wired or attached to a computer. Security-focused IoT devices include things like window monitors, smart door locks and video doorbells – even security lighting.

While these devices provide a number of benefits, including remote monitoring and automation features, some have their drawbacks, as well. Video doorbells, in particular, are being called out over potential privacy concerns. If you’ve been thinking of getting a video doorbell, here are a few things that you should consider, to ensure a good balance between your home security and your neighbors’ privacy.

How to Video Doorbells Work?

Video doorbells use motion detectors to sense when there is someone around the area where the doorbell is installed. This activates the camera, even before the doorbell itself is rung. The process is automatic; many mistakenly believe that the video feed from the devices have to be activated through interaction with the doorbell, but that isn’t the case. Depending on the model and how it’s being used, the visitor who activated the doorbell is either recorded or the video stream is sent live to an associated app. In some cases, video is both streamed and recorded for later review.

What Privacy Concerns Exist?

One of the big privacy concerns comes from what some users are doing with the video recorded by their doorbells. While the recordings are intended for security purposes, some owners choose to upload the videos (or still images from those videos) to websites where others can see exactly who has been visiting their house. Typically, this is done with the purpose of mocking the visitors without their knowledge or consent. In some cases, they may not even realize that they’re being recorded.

Even without sharing the videos, some video doorbells record a large enough area that they also record portions of neighbors’ properties when activated. This creates a similar concern to the installation of standard security cameras that might target a neighbor’s property. This could cause significant privacy problems if too much of the neighbor’s property is visible and may even open the owner up to action based on the claim that they are recording what the neighbor is doing.

On top of this, some video doorbell owners are also becoming increasingly nervous about their devices as the video doorbell manufacturer Ring has partnered with law enforcement agencies in some areas. While the police do not have unrestricted access to video feeds, they can send out messages requesting images or footage from doorbell owners in the area where a crime was committed. Though the request is voluntary, it has still led to unease among users who don’t want their devices used for neighborhood surveillance purposes.

Privacy-Related Restrictions

As a result of these concerns, some homeowners’ associations and local ordinances have targeted video doorbells. In some cases, they aren’t allowed at all, while in others, only certain brands can be installed, which are known to have a narrow focus. A failure to abide by these restrictions can lead to tickets, action by the homeowners’ association and in some cases, even legal action or eviction.


Katie Yancey, REALTOR | United Real Estate Premier

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Katie Yancey

As a REALTOR® licensed in Virginia, Katie provides buyer and seller real estate services across the DC metro area. Katie enjoys her new career as a REALTOR® including the different daily workplaces;....

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