Designing interventions for smart doorbells

Workshop14:15-16:156th Floor b

Currently there might be as many as 1,2 million smart doorbells in the Netherlands, the larger majority Google Nest or Amazon Ring doorbells. Many of these are filming public space, sometimes without its owner being aware of it.  

We find this worrisome.  While the legality of the use of smart doorbells depends on the situation, enforcement of the GDPR is not happening in any of them. They also impact the communities in which they are operational. Whereas it may give you a sense of security, your neighbor might see this as an infringement of his privacy.

Other things to think of:

  • Doorbells normalize surveillance technology in public space.
  • Doorbells are bad news for privacy within the home.
  • Doorbells can easily be hacked.


In the workshop we will collectively design practical solutions for people who feel uncomfortable by smart doorbells in their area which are pointing at public space.

Based on the case of De Bongerd, a neighborhood in Amsterdam-Noord, we will look at this problem. We will brainstorm and design interventions from a city’s perspective. This means we are looking for things a city could do to ameliorate the situation for its citizens who are worried by the cameras. For the workshop we will assume that we cannot change the fact that the smart doorbells are affordable and widely available.


Workshop leaders: Thijs Turel and Hein Wils, Responsible Sensing Lab

As program manager of the Urban Data and Intelligence program, Thijs Turel develops projects that use urban big data and intelligence to improve urban life, whilst strengthening democratic processes and values in the city. This work involves bringing stakeholders together, securing funding, overseeing projects.

Team Lead Responsible Sensing Lab
In 2019 Thijs initiated the Responsible Sensing Lab, which takes a value-by-design approach to developing the software, hardware and user experience around Smart City technology. Currently the team has 5 team members and works on a variety of pilots ranging from democratization of sensing technology to privacy enhancing in sensing technologies. We work with local government departments to implement these innovations into their primary processes.

Hein Wils is program manager at Responsible Sensing Lab

Hein Wils is working for the city of Amsterdam at Stedelijke Innovatie and R&D as a program manager. At the Responsible Sensing Lab he is currently building a national coalition of cities and interest groups on the topic of smart doorbells.

Image created by Midjourney inspired on the title.