this may and may not

Are you (un) consciously filming the public road with your smart doorbell? Watch out, because there are many hooks and eyes here. Android Planet list them. With these tips you prevent complaints from neighbors or even a fine.

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Filming on public roads is not allowed

From research by Multiscope it appears that half a million Dutch households now have a smart doorbell. The (video) doorbell is gaining popularity, mainly because you can see who is ringing all over the world and because the bell can serve as a security camera. This way you keep an eye on things and you can set that you receive a notification on your smartphone when someone walks in your garden.

Be careful though, because your smart doorbell may not just film the public road. Everyone has the legal right to walk, cycle or pass by unobserved. If your phone keeps an eye on the road, you are violating other people’s privacy and passers-by and neighbors can file a complaint with the Dutch Data Protection Authority (AP). This regulator deals with privacy issues and can give you a reprimand or even a fine.

The latter usually does not happen immediately, but it can occur if you do not take action after a reprimand. Want to know more about this? You can read more information on the AP website.

Using a smart doorbell responsibly: that’s how you do it

Prevent complaints or even a fine by using your smart doorbell in the right way. The first step is to inform people that you are using a doorbell with a camera function. The AP emphasizes that visitors, such as the package deliverer, collectors and friends and family, should be aware that they may be filmed (with or without sound).

For that reason, most smart doorbells come with a sticker that you can stick on your window, for example. If you cannot or do not want to use that sticker, there are other methods to inform visitors. Manufacturers such as Ring, for example, sell a warning sign that you can put in your garden or a flower pot. Putting something together yourself is of course also a possibility.

Notifying people about your smart doorbell is not enough. As said before, you are not allowed to visualize the public road unless you have a very good reason. However, those reasons are scarce. Therefore, investigate whether it is possible to hang the doorbell in such a way that it films as little of the public road as possible.

For example, by using a supplied or separately available wall holder, so that you can hang the doorbell down at an angle. This way you adjust the viewing angle of the camera and it films less forward. Make sure that you do not place the bell too diagonally, otherwise you will no longer see who is at your door.

Decide for yourself what the bell (not) films

Can’t you avoid filming part of the public road, for example because your front door is close to the street? Then check whether the smart doorbell you have (or want to buy) is suitable for so-called movement or activity zones.

If the doorbell app supports this feature, you can set which parts of the camera should be ignored after mounting the bell. An example: the bell shows a part of the sidewalk in front of your house, while for privacy reasons you do not want it to record it. In the app of your bell, you can set that zone to be ignored, so that the bell only sees your garden, as it were. If someone walks past, you will not be notified and no video clip will be recorded. Do you – or your neighbors – think this is not enough?

Doorbell or separate security camera?

With most smart doorbells you can set the camera to only record a video when someone rings the doorbell. That is more privacy-friendly for neighbors and passers-by, although the bell hardly functions as a security camera in this way. That is a concern.

If you place a lot of value on the security function, you may also consider purchasing a separate security camera. Because you do not have to mount it in the place of a doorbell, you are more flexible in where you want to hang or place it. It is therefore better to take the viewing angle into account: what do you want to film and how do you not or as little as possible visualize the public road? Good to know: many security cameras are also suitable for movement or activity zones.

Smart camera privacy: you should pay attention to this

A smart doorbell offers many useful features, but the AP does not monitor the privacy of neighbors and passers-by for nothing. Video and audio recordings are privacy sensitive. It is therefore important that the manufacturer of your doorbell handles this carefully.

For this reason, we particularly recommend doorbells from well-known brands, because they have their security and privacy measures in order better than unknown brands. A smart doorbell from a discounter or Chinese webshop can work very well, but it is difficult to find out whether the smart doorbell or camera also handles your privacy carefully. Editor Erwin also warns against this in his column about a cheap smart home.

Below you can read more about how two major manufacturers deal with your privacy.

Ring privacy

Ring is perhaps the best-known seller of smart (video) doorbells in the Netherlands. The bubbles offer good value for money. That Ring takes privacy seriously, is evident from the many privacy options in the app. You can adjust many things to your own liking and that is nice.

However, occasionally messages appear that are less positive. Bitdefender found vulnerabilities in Ring’s system in 2019, customer data has been leaked and you may not like that the video doorbell stores the video clips on Amazon servers.

Google Nest Privacy

Google also sells a smart doorbell, the Nest Hello. It supports features such as facial recognition, which can be useful but also raises questions about the privacy of the Google Nest bell. After all, Google is an advertising company. Google stores the images of the doorbell in the cloud and that does not always go well. For example, in May 2020, a Google Nest Hub user suddenly saw images of someone else’s Nest Hello on his screen. The system is therefore not completely watertight, unlike any digital system.

Smart doorbells tested

Are you curious about the possibilities and user-friendliness of different smart doorbells? Our sister website iPhoned tested three models in the spring. Here you can read the smart doorbell test, which also includes a bell from the popular Ring.

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