According to a report by The Intercept, Ring, Amazon’s smart doorbell company gave access to its employees to watch live footage from cameras of the customers. As per the claim, Ring engineers and executives were allowed to watch the unfiltered footage of the users.
Last year in February, Amazon acquired Ring for $1 billion. Amazon had been in the news last year for its data breach where the company leaked out the customers’ email addresses.
Ring markets its cameras, mounted as doorbells as a security means that act like a privatized neighborhood watch while the user was away. The staff at Ring was able to gain access to the cameras inside as well as outside the home, depending on where the devices were positioned. Ring has been accused of mishandling videos collected by the smart device and failing to protect the footage with encryption. The Ring customer’s email address is enough to get access to cameras from user’s home.
According to The Information and The Intercept, Ring’s video annotation team would watch camera footage and tag objects, humans and other things in the video clips so that its object recognition software could better itself.
Ring responded to this post stating, “We take the privacy and security of our customers’ personal information extremely seriously. In order to improve our service, we view and annotate certain Ring video recordings. These recordings are sourced exclusively from publicly shared Ring videos from the Neighbors app (in accordance with our terms of service), and from a small fraction of Ring users who have provided their explicit written consent to allow us to access and utilize their videos for such purposes. Ring employees do not have access to livestreams from Ring products.
We have strict policies in place for all our team members. We implement systems to restrict and audit access to information. We hold our team members to a high ethical standard and anyone in violation of our policies faces discipline, including termination and potential legal and criminal penalties. In addition, we have zero tolerance for abuse of our systems and if we find bad actors who have engaged in this behavior, we will take swift action against them.”
Amazon's legit been sending out notices saying sorry we exposed your email address. Seems likely related to this https://t.co/21cRB2dHTk… Besides the brevity, what's giving people pause is they sign the email https://t.co/KDiteRFaeR Why cap the "a" and why no https://? Strange pic.twitter.com/mwty3GmCN1
— briankrebs (@briankrebs) November 21, 2018
Because of the privacy concerns, users are now skeptical about using Ring’s smart doorbell. One comment on HackerNews read, “The ring doorbell is installed at your front door. It records pretty much all movement to and from your house. It records audio at the doorstep, so if you’re having a conversation with anyone at your doorstep, that gets recorded too.” Another user commented, “If some rando gets my ring doorbell footage and figures out where I live, that’s hard to undo. If someone steals my stuff and gets away with it because I didn’t have a ring doorbell, that’s annoying but much easier to recover from. We are talking about the difference between an insurance claim and moving house.”
According to a few users, this device is prone to DDOS attacks. One of the users commented, “Aside from the 700 person team given access to live video feeds and customer databases, the lack of proper security of this product makes it a PRIME target for DDOS attacks that could cripple infrastructure.”
But few users are in the favor of such devices as they find them safe and convenient to use. One user commented, “These devices are extremely popular in my neighborhood, and cost/convenience is the only thing keeping them from being universal.” Another user commented, “I’d say, yes. I’ve been able to watch that many people see the ring (they see the camera), and they back right off the porch. It’s been awesome in this respect, people simply ring it less.”
Some users believe such surveillance devices shouldn’t use cloud but instead have data stored locally. Others are now looking out for alternatives like Xiaomi Dafang camera, RCA doorbell camera, and Blue Iris.
This news surely makes one reflect on how home appliances could get monitored by companies or hackers and personal data might get misused.
Note: We have edited this news to include the response from the Ring team to our post.