The image above shows the second generation of the Amazon Ring Video Doorbell security camera. The device is on the right and a smartphone using the Ring app to show what the camera views is on the left.
Reports are emerging of the use of the Amazon Ring Video Doorbell cameras being used to spy on customers for several months in 2017 and in 2018 and 2019.
Astoundingly, the culprits were some of its employees and contractors with access to customers’ sensitive video. Amazingly, every Amazon Ring employee was able to access every customer video, even when it wasn’t necessary to do their jobs. Astonishingly, before July 2017, the employees, along with workers from a contractor in Ukraine, could download any of those videos and then save and share them with anyone else.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that an employee spied on female customers in their bedrooms and bathrooms and another employee gave cameras to people and then viewed their videos without their consent. The FTC reports that Amazon Ring did not protect customers from allowing hackers to access their cameras and harass them in 2019.
Moreover, the FTC alleges that between January 2019 and March 2020 the devices of more than 55,000 customers were compromised. In some of the worst cases, cybercriminals used the devices of Amazon Ring owners to terrorise them.
Amazon Ring – History of reducing access rights
Consequently, in 2017, Amazon Ring reduced the access rights of its employees. From then on, customers had to consent to customer-service agents having access to their videos. For reasons unknown, Amazon Ring kept allowing hundreds of other of its employees and third-party contractors access to all of the video data – even if that access was not necessary in the performance of their jobs.
Unsurprisingly, more abuse of that access took place. In January 2018, among several revelations of serious invasions of privacy, a male Amazon employee was caught spying on the videos of a female colleague by using her email address. Probably the most serious revelation was of an elderly woman, a resident in assisted-living housing was propositioned and threatened.
As a result of those revelations, Amazon had to reduce access rights to videos further in February 2018. Of most importance, employees and third-party contractors were only given access to customer videos in the course of legitimate business activities.
Amazon Ring made further changes to its access practices in February 2019 so that most Ring employees or contractors could only access a customer’s private video with that customer’s specific consent.
Another troubling story involving an Amazon doorbell
June 15, 2023. – “Amazon is facing serious questions about both user privacy and how it deals with customers accused of wrongdoing after a user found their account cancelled in the face of a bogus racism complaint from a delivery driver.”
And you might like to read the following article:
Your smart doorbell could land you in court: How to keep your home safe AND stay on the right side of the law –
Amazon agrees to pay damages
Amazon intends to settle the privacy violations to the tune of $5.8 million and will be making the necessary changes to unacceptable practices as soon as they come to light.
Moral of the story…
Never forget that if you use any security devices of this kind, your privacy will be in danger of being compromised no matter what assurances the manufacturers of the devices and their vendors provide. This is mainly because the hackers, who make their money from scams and exploits, are always several steps ahead of the manufacturers and developers of technology in discovering security vulnerabilities.
Moreover, a customer of another doorbell that Amazon provides had his account suspended briefly after a delivery driver falsely accused him of making a racist comment via his doorbell. Furthermore, all of the man’s Amazon Echo devices were logged out. Fortunately, in the man’s case, his “multiple cameras recording everything that happens on my property” gave proof of his innocence. However, Amazon took six days to reinstate his account without providing confirmation or an apology when it happened.
Obviously, Amazon has to investigate any such claims made by its staff before it takes action against customers who rely on its products and services.
Purchaser reviews of Amazon’s products
Note that the purchaser reviews, if available on Amazon, are often a mine of helpful information on the products that the company sells.