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Ring reportedly gave employees access to customer video feeds

Live feeds and video histories were accessible to engineers.
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Ring's privacy practices have come under scrutiny in recent months and the latest report from The Intercept details just how lax the company has been when it comes to users' personal video feeds. Ring's product lines include security cameras, video doorbells, lighting and alarm systems and the company was acquired by Amazon last year. But recent reports have shown that a large number of Ring employees, both in the US and abroad, were granted unlimited access to the video feeds collected by Ring products, and for the most part, it appears that the company never made its customers aware of such a practice.

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. And The Intercept's sources said that access came via an Amazon S3 cloud storage folder that held every video ever recorded by a Ring product. Sources also told The Intercept that executives and engineers in the US were allowed access to live feeds of customers' cameras. They also described how Ring engineers would check out their coworkers' cameras and tease them when they saw them bringing dates home or show videos to other employees when they saw something of interest.

The videos were apparently shared to engineers so that Ring's AI could be more thoroughly trained. But The Intercept notes that Ring's terms of service and privacy policy fail to mention that staff would have access to customer videos. The company has reportedly boosted its security measures since Amazon's purchase, preventing staff from downloading videos and restricting their access. But The Information reports that workers were easily able to find workarounds for certain controls.

Last year, Ring came under fire for a bug that let users stay signed into an account even after the password had been changed.

A Ring spokesperson told The Intercept that the videos used to improve its service are sourced from "publicly shared Ring videos from the Neighbors app," as well as from Ring customers that have consented to such use. The spokesperson also said that the company has "strict policies" regarding its employees' actions. "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," they said. "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."

We've reached out to Ring and we'll update this post if he hear more.

Update 1/10/19 7:35PM ET: A ring spokesperson sent Engadget the following statement. They also said Ring has never given employees access to livestreams of the company's devices.

"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."

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