Here’s a Doorbell Camera You Don’t Have to Feel Guilty About

No more spying for the police

Owen Williams
Debugger
Published in
5 min readFeb 1, 2021

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Photos courtesy of the author.

If you’ve spent any time walking down a neighborhood sidewalk recently, you might have noticed an increasing number of doorbell cameras from companies like Amazon’s Ring. These cameras are observing you, yes, and they’re also uploading all of the footage they collect to a dizzying array of cloud servers.

I own one of those internet-connected doorbells, a Nest Hello from Google, and while I find it useful for seeing who’s at the door when I’m away, the thought that I’m slinging endless footage of innocent people into a cloud I don’t control bothers me. When it emerged that Ring has partnerships with hundreds of police forces, I started searching for an alternative I could host myself, without relying on a cloud owned by a company like Amazon.

Until recently, there weren’t really any options on the market, but when Ubiquiti’s new G4 Pro Doorbell camera was released late last year for $199, I finally decided to ditch the Nest Hello in favor of a more privacy-friendly approach.

UniFi’s G4 Doorbell is incredibly similar to the Nest Hello, sporting a camera, microphone, and speaker for talking to anyone that rings your doorbell, but it adds a little screen that allows you to set a message like “Welcome,” or set up an automatic response like “Leave the package” when you’re not available.

Ubiquiti’s cameras connect to a system called UniFi Protect, which allows you to store footage on a device within your home without ever sending it beyond your network, which was exactly what I wanted. The company has a dizzying array of cameras from the tiny, $29 indoor camera to a high-end 4K camera with optical zoom, all of which can be connected to a single system.

Unlike Nest and Ring, which require you to pay a monthly subscription fee to store footage on their servers for as long as you use them, you’re in control of your data and don’t need to pay any fees.

You do, however, need to buy an extra device to actually store all of that footage inside your home. The simple option is the company’s Cloud Key Plus, which includes a hard drive with 1TB of storage, but because I already have an overkill network made by the company, I was able to…

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Owen Williams
Debugger

Fascinated by how code and design is shaping the world. I write about the why behind tech news. Design Manager in Tech. https://twitter.com/ow