What are the downsides of doorbell cameras?

Doorbell cameras are devices that allow homeowners to monitor their front door and communicate with visitors remotely. However, they also pose some risks and challenges, such as privacy, security, legal, and ethical issues.

Doorbell cameras are becoming more popular and affordable in the US, as they offer convenience, safety, and peace of mind to homeowners. According to a report by Strategy Analytics, the global market for smart doorbells was worth $1.4 billion in 2020, and is expected to grow to $2.8 billion by 2025. However, these devices are not without drawbacks, and homeowners should be aware of the potential downsides of installing and using them.

Privacy issues

One of the main concerns about doorbell cameras is the privacy of both the homeowners and the visitors. Doorbell cameras can capture and store video and audio recordings of anyone who approaches the door, which may include neighbors, delivery workers, solicitors, or strangers. These recordings may contain sensitive or personal information, such as faces, voices, names, addresses, or packages.

Some doorbell cameras also have facial recognition features, which can identify and alert the homeowners of familiar or unfamiliar faces. However, this technology can also raise privacy and accuracy issues, as it may misidentify or discriminate against certain groups of people, such as people of color, women, or children. Moreover, facial recognition can create a database of faces that can be accessed by third parties, such as law enforcement, advertisers, or hackers.

Another privacy issue is the consent of the visitors. Some states, such as California, require the consent of all parties involved in a recording, while others, such as Texas, only require the consent of one party. Therefore, homeowners should check the laws of their state before installing and using a doorbell camera, and inform their visitors of the presence and purpose of the device. Otherwise, they may face legal consequences or damage their relationships with their visitors.

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Security issues

Another downside of doorbell cameras is the security of the devices and the data they collect. Doorbell cameras are connected to the internet via Wi-Fi or cellular networks, which makes them vulnerable to hacking, interference, or malfunctioning. Hackers can access the cameras and view or manipulate the live or recorded footage, or use them as a gateway to access other devices on the same network, such as smartphones, computers, or smart locks.

Some examples of security breaches involving doorbell cameras include:

  • In 2019, a hacker accessed a Ring doorbell camera in Mississippi and spoke to an 8-year-old girl in her bedroom, pretending to be Santa Claus.
  • In 2020, a hacker accessed a Ring doorbell camera in Florida and harassed a couple with racial slurs and threats.
  • In 2020, a hacker accessed a Nest doorbell camera in Illinois and warned the homeowner of a fake missile attack from North Korea.

To prevent these incidents, homeowners should use strong and unique passwords, enable two-factor authentication, update the software regularly, and disable unnecessary features, such as microphone or speaker.

Legal and ethical issues

A final downside of doorbell cameras is the legal and ethical implications of their use. Doorbell cameras can capture and record activities that occur in public spaces, such as sidewalks, streets, or driveways, which may affect the rights and expectations of other people. For instance, some homeowners may use their doorbell cameras to monitor or report suspicious or criminal behavior, such as theft, vandalism, or trespassing. However, this may also lead to false accusations, racial profiling, or vigilantism.

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Some doorbell cameras also allow homeowners to share their footage with other users or with law enforcement agencies, such as through the Neighbors app by Ring. However, this may create a network of surveillance that can infringe on the privacy and civil liberties of the public, especially if the footage is used without proper oversight, accountability, or transparency. Furthermore, some law enforcement agencies may request or subpoena the footage from the doorbell camera companies, such as Amazon or Google, without the knowledge or consent of the homeowners.

Therefore, homeowners should be careful and responsible when using and sharing their doorbell camera footage, and consider the legal and ethical ramifications of their actions. They should also review the terms and conditions of the doorbell camera companies, and understand how they collect, store, use, and share their data.


Doorbell cameras are useful and convenient devices that can enhance the security and comfort of homeowners. However, they also have some downsides, such as privacy, security, legal, and ethical issues, that should not be overlooked or ignored. Homeowners should weigh the pros and cons of installing and using doorbell cameras, and take the necessary steps to protect their own and others’ rights and interests.