Security cameras give us peace of mind, allow us to learn more about what's going on around our home, and ensure that if something happens, we have useful evidence and footage to hand. These can also be very useful, especially when integrating with other smart home devices. But sometimes we don't just look at the images from the security camera. The companies that make the cameras often have access to recorded footage, and in some cases that means the police have access to it as well. If that sounds a little disturbing, that's because it is, especially since you may not know if the police have access to your security footage. Here's what you need to know about the situations where the police can access your security footage and what you can do to prevent it if you want to.
Credit: Rated/Rachel Murphy
When it comes to security cameras, such as video doorbells, make sure you read the fine print on how your videos may or may not be shared. Whether companies need permission to share recordings depends on your settings and the access that the companies themselves have. In short, a company is unlikely to need your permission to share data if that data is stored on the company's servers. In other words, if you use cloud storage for videos, which is offered by most major security brands such as Ring, Eufy and Arlo, and that data is not end-to-end encrypted, then it does not need your permission to share your facts. That doesn't mean they'll share it freely, but it does mean they could if they wanted to.
How do the police get recordings?
Credit: Rated/Getty Images/iStockphoto/LightFieldStudios
There are times when someone other than you, such as a security company or law enforcement, has access to your private footage. The police don't necessarily have direct access to your data - they must first go through you or the company that makes your security camera. In the case of Ring, which runs Buren's community service, police can ask users directly if they have access to footage, through the Request for Help feature. Typically, users within a certain distance of an incident receive that request. Users can then provide all security camera images from a certain period, share only certain images from that period or ignore the request. Ultimately, when you share footage, you also share your email and physical address with law enforcement, and that data is available to law enforcement for up to 30 days, though they can download it and keep it for longer. Importantly, Ring says law enforcement never has access to live feeds of footage. However, the police do not have to ask for help. Instead, they can request data directly from Ring, and Amazon (Ring's owner) has confirmed that it shares CCTV and doorbell footage with law enforcement in an emergency. That's just Ring, though. Most security camera companies don't have services like Neighbors, and their rules are probably much more lenient. Usually the police can ask companies to access your footage. Some companies only provide that data if there is a warrant, but others are more relaxed with their customers' data.
Will a company tell me if they have shared my details with the police?
Not necessarily - and in fact it's unlikely they will. Companies want to make you feel safe with the services so that you continue to use the products.
Credit: Reviewed / Nick Woodard
In most cases, the police will make a formal request to access your security video footage. There are a few things you can do to prevent companies from deciding for you whether or not you want to share the footage with the police. Most of those options mean that companies don't have access to the images at all. In these situations, the police must come directly to you to access the footage if they wish. For starters, you can opt for cameras and doorbells that store footage locally instead of in the cloud. Security brands Eufy and Wyze offer local video storage options, meaning footage is not stored on a company-owned server. Some D-Link and TP-Link options also have local storage. Fortunately, you can use cloud storage and still maintain full control if you use a cloud storage service that offers end-to-end encryption. A good example of this is Apple's HomeKit Secure Video, which stores footage in your iCloud account. Only the user can access this footage, as it is end-to-end encrypted, and Apple cannot access the data even if it wanted to. The list of devices that support HomeKit Secure Video is small, but growing. Ring also offers some options for end-to-end encryption. Users must opt in for end-to-end encryption with Ring, but doing so will prevent Ring from accessing or sharing it with law enforcement. End-to-end encryption is available as an option on all products Ring currently sells, but may not be an option on older devices. Unfortunately, Ring users who opt for end-to-end encryption will not be able to preview videos on the Ring Event Timeline or view footage on shared devices, such as an Amazon Echo Show.
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