OPINION - Video doorbells: peace of mind or a lurch towards a surveillance state?

·2-min read

‘A lot happens at your front door’ is the marketing line for the Ring doorbell. And a lot gets picked up on its camera and microphone.

Bringing technology to the once humble doorbell, a homeowner can now see who’s outside their front door and speak to them, even if not home themselves. Pretty handy, but privacy campaigners have concerns.

Ray Walsh, digital privacy expert at ProPrivacy, says the devices can create a “sweeping surveillance nexus in which residents can no longer leave their homes and move around their neighbourhood without fear of being tracked.”

That’s because devices such as Amazon’s Ring and Google Nest don’t simply function when a visitor presses the button at the front door. If they can do more, they inevitably will. But should they?

The capabilities of the devices can allow for video capturing more than strictly the person at the door, and can pick up audio from unassuming passers-by.

There are concerns too that the footage may not be restricted to the homeowner alone. Digital storage creates the potential for unauthorised users trying to gain access – or the owner themself may choose to distribute it. As they effectively perform the function of a security camera, police forces can also request access to recordings.

For all the nifty features, from a privacy point-of-view these modern doorbells may set alarm bells ringing.

Video doorbells: peace of mind or a lurch towards a surveillance state? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below for the chance to be featured on the ES website.

Yesterday we asked whether London should follow Wales’ lead and lower its speed limit from 30mph to 20mph. In the comments, Standard reader ParsleyAndSage argued the case that “pollution is likely a bigger killer of Londoners than 30mph roads”.

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