Future Tense

If You Use a Doorbell Camera, You Should Have a Sign Saying So

A repeated sign says "Smile! You're on a Ring Camera!"
Use signs to let visitors know that your doorbell is recording them. Photo illustration by Slate

In late November, an Amazon employee named Karim Ahmad-Reed was dropping off a package at a house in Wilmington, Delaware, when he saw that the homeowner had left out crackers, cookies, and soda for delivery people. Ahmad-Reed, who had forgotten his lunch that day, exclaimed, “This is sweet!” and proceeded to dance as he left. What he didn’t know at the time was that Ring doorbell was recording his small celebration on the porch. The resulting video went viral on social media platforms last week, racking up millions of views.


As smart doorbells find their way onto an increasing number of front doors across the country, videos of delivery people, trick-or-treaters, sanitation workers, and other innocent visitors have been going viral. Though the results are often charming, it seems in many cases that the people caught on camera don’t realize they’re being recorded. Ahmad-Reed reportedly only found out that the Ring captured his dance when his supervisor told him that the video was online.


It’s time for a new social norm: If you own a doorbell that has an embedded camera, you should notify visitors that they’re being recorded. Ideally, you would also seek their consent before posting a video that includes them. But to a certain extent, that’s out of your hands: By agreeing to its terms of service, users give Ring the right to distribute and create ads from any footage shared to its Neighbor safety app or elsewhere.


Advanced notification could also be helpful in warding off package pirates and other nefarious actors, in the same way that “Smile, you’re on camera” signs deter shoplifting and ADT Security yard signs discourage break-ins.

Ring devices do come with stickers for doors and windows to help smart doorbell owners be forthright about their home surveillance set-ups. “We encourage customers to ensure their Ring device is visible, so guests know they are being captured on video,” a spokesperson from the company told Slate. But those can be easy to miss. If you’d like something a bit more stylish and eye-catching, Slate’s web designer Holly Allen has created a series of signs to inform friends and thieves alike that they’re on camera.

Six signs. The first one says: "You're being recorded by  a smart doorbell." The second: "Hello. My smart doorbell is recording you." The third: "My smart doorbell is recording you." The fourth: Hello. My smart doorbell is taping you." The fifth: My doorbell is recording you." And the sixth: "Smile! You're on a Ring camera!"
Print and post a sign next to your doorbell. Photo illustration by Slate.

Here are links where you can download each sign:

Sign 1: www.scribd.com/document/439537009/Doorbell-Sign-1
Sign 2: www.scribd.com/document/439536833/Doorbell-Sign-2
Sign 3: www.scribd.com/document/439537152/Doorbell-Sign-3
Sign 4: www.scribd.com/document/439537293/Doorbell-Sign-4
Sign 5: www.scribd.com/document/439537398/Doorbell-Sign-5
Sign 6: www.scribd.com/document/439537512/Doorbell-Sign-6

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University that examines emerging technologies, public policy, and society.