Published: Mon, January 14, 2019
IT | By Lester Massey

Amazon’s ‘Ring’ security cameras plagued by privacy issues, employee snooping

Amazon’s ‘Ring’ security cameras plagued by privacy issues, employee snooping

According to The Intercept, some Ring employees have seemingly unfettered access to customers' live camera streams, with one team set up to improve object-based recognition capturing "people kissing, firing guns, and stealing".

If you have a Ring doorbell, you might not be the only one watching the videos from it.

Additionally, executives and engineers in the United States were reportedly given access to Ring's technical support video portal, essentially giving them the keys to live video feeds from customer cameras.

Further, the spokesperson said that the company has systems in place to restrict and audit employee access to information, and holds their team members to a high ethical standard. The source also claims that Ring unnecessarily gave engineers and executives in the US access to the technical support video portal the company operated, which gave those people unfiltered, around the clock access to live video feeds from some customer cameras with no regard to whether the Ring employees needed access to that data for their job.

Last month, The Information described how in 2016, the company granted inexperienced engineers in its Ukraine offices access to a database that contained Ring customers' video histories. Ring reportedly still employs Ukrainian data operators to manually process video footage. Amazon-owned Ring has been one of the top players in these niches for a few years, but if you've purchased any of the company's products in the past, you may want to consider unplugging them and getting something else.

Amazon -owned smart doorbell maker Ring is facing claims that might give some smart home enthusiasts pause. Privacy breaches and violations have become commonplace, and as home security systems become more affordable, more connected and more cloud-based, we need to pay attention to who might be able to access live camera feeds and recordings of our most personal and private spaces. Having previously reported on such alleged employee access in December, the Information said in its own report that users early on frequently complained of triggered alerts for such innocuous activity as a passing vehicle.

In a statement, Ring said some Amazon employees have access to videos that are publicly shared through the company's Neighbors app, which aims to create a network of security cameras in an area. The Intercept writes that neither Ring's ToS or privacy policy mentions that its staff could access users' videos.

Best known for its smart video doorbells, Ring was acquired by Amazon in 2018 for over $1 billion, and recently debuted its new Ring Door View Cam at CES 2019, which turns your door's peephole into a security camera. Those with access to these unencrypted videos could easily browse, view, download, and share them. Reportedly, only a customer's email address was required to watch cameras from that person's home.

'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, ' they added.

The reason for the alleged lack of encryption, the sources claimed, was Ring leadership's belief that the increased expense of implementing the security could "make the company less valuable".

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