Privacy & Security 2 min. read

Own a Ring security camera? Employees may be spying on you

Own a Ring security camera? Employees may be spying on you

Smart security cameras, like Amazon’s Ring doorbell, are becoming ubiquitous. And why not? After all, the idea of a security camera with real-time video—allowing you to watch and speak to visitors at your door, even if you’re at work or on vacation—is a convenience that’s hard to pass up. Then there are the alerts on your phone when motion outside your property is detected, helping to deter unwanted lurkers.

If you’re looking for security cameras that connect to the internet and protect your home, chances are Ring is high on your list.

But here’s the catch: Due to lax privacy policies, Amazon employees—like its engineers, executive teams, and others—can spy on you in and around your home, without your permission.

The Intercept launched an investigation into what it called reckless oversight. It found that the live and recorded feeds of Ring cameras are unencrypted, meaning “only a Ring customer’s email address was required to watch cameras from that person’s home.”

This is not the first smart device where spying was an issue. For example, just a few months ago a story broke about baby monitors being hacked to spy on sleeping children. These IoT devices were, after all, designed with user convenience in mind—not security. But there’s something especially creepy about random people being able to spy on you, whenever they please.

It’s not just certain Amazon employees that have access to Ring feeds. A group of engineers in the Ukraine had access to a folder containing “every video created by every Ring camera around the world.” If that wasn’t bad enough, those employees could access a “corresponding database that linked each specific video file to corresponding specific Ring customers.”

Various sources at the Intercept suggested engineers would spy on each other, teasing their colleagues about dates they brought home. It makes you wonder: If they would abuse their access to spy on each other, who else would they spy on? After all, all they had to do was plug in a customer’s email address. And what would happen if they decided to sell that footage at a later date?

Once again, this is another reminder to be wary of the smart devices we purchase. Don’t get me wrong, these gadgets are clever and useful, and they make our lives better. But we’re giving up privacy for convenience, and it’s important to understand what’s happening with our data. As we reported a short while ago, smart home device companies typically do not produce transparency reports to legally prove what info they share. It’s up to you to ensure your sensitive data is protected.

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