Key Takeaways Civil liberties groups believe warrants should be required for the government to search electronic devices at U.S. airports and other ports of entry. A group of American citizens and a permanent resident claim their rights were violated when their devices were searched. Government agencies are reportedly increasing the number of searches of devices at U.S. borders. ...
- More than a dozen civil rights and consumer protection agencies are asking reviewers to “Rescind Ring” due to safety and privacy concerns.
- Amazon Ring has ties to police departments and has a history of dangerous leaks and hacks.
- Privacy and security concerns are often pitted against each other, but they are both important and civil liberties organizations think Amazon ring infringes on both.
Amazon Ring has been advertised as a way for busy, on-the-go people to check on their homes and provide an added sense of security, but consumer protection agencies and civil liberties groups are saying it does more harm than good when it comes to consumer privacy.
“Rescind Ring” is the new movement by over 15 civil rights groups calling on tech reviewers and media outlets to withdraw their endorsement of the internet-based home camera system. The group’s press release cites issues regarding hacks, leaks, and their connection to “fatal” police departments as a reason for concern.
Ring has been employed by 16% of homes in the U.S. and remains the most popular video doorbell system, but it has been a thorn in Amazon’s side as it continues to draw negative press.
“Their poor security leaves consumers vulnerable to hacks and leaks, as seen in the past year. Their police partnerships challenge fundamental basic liberties, violate sacred privacy rights,” Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, said in a December 8 press release.
“Amazon’s monopoly power and aggressive pursuit of surveillance partnerships with police set them apart from their competitors. Ignoring the broader societal impact of a product does not make your review ‘neutral,’ it makes it reckless and incomplete.”
“There are security benefits to having an Internet-connected cloud-based security camera. There are security benefits to not having one.”
Issues With Amazon Ring
Last month, Amazon was forced to recall roughly 360,000 Ring doorbell systems due to issues with overheating batteries causing fire and burn hazards. This was the latest in a deluge of bad press for the Wi-Fi-enabled security device, which came under fire for lucrative partnerships with more than 400 police departments across the country.
Over 30 civil rights organizations called out the company, which has only doubled-down on its connection to law enforcement while flirting with the expansion of facial recognition software to better aid officers.
The partnerships with law enforcement agencies predate the national reckoning that occurred this summer, but Ring executives neither have expressed any intent to end those relationships, nor the further development of the company’s technology.
While the tech giant released a statement supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and announcing a $10 million donation, executives over at Ring had their own priorities. They have defended their ties to policing, resulting in activists seeing the gesture as little more than lip service.
The company expanded the program by signing 29 new police contracts in the wake of the George Floyd killing and the ongoing protest movement.
Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
“The problem is that it’s a surveillance device under the control of a surveillance-capitalism monopoly. Amazon has the data, and they can do with it what they want—including giving it to the police without any warrant or even probable cause,” security technologist Bruce Schneier said in an email interview with Lifewire.
Safety vs Security
The internet-based, Wi-Fi-enabled Ring doorbell camera systems also raise a slew of privacy concerns for users. The technology is susceptible to hackers who can gain remote access to cameras and sensitive consumer information.
In one chilling viral clip from last year, a man remotely hacks the security system in a young girl’s bedroom and is heard speaking to her through the camera’s mic, proclaiming to be Santa Clause and instructing her to break her TV.
Another example of a Ring hack involved a Black family being berated with racial epithets by remote hackers who had been watching them through their camera throughout the night.
That same year, thousands of users found their information exposed by hackers after a leak exposed sensitive information. Home addresses, financial details, and recorded video footage were among the private information hackers leaked from some 3,672 Ring camera owners just a year ago.
Amazon Ring has failed to take responsibility for these hacks. Instead, blaming the compromise of their systems on users who reuse passwords. Failure of action by executives is among the reasons why consumer protection and civil rights organizations have called reviewers to rescind their recommendations.
“The problem is that it’s a surveillance device under the control of a surveillance-capitalism monopoly.”
Continued lack of responsibility on the part of the business higher-ups could make consumers wary of the spy technologies that put cameras in their homes. An often-repeated cliché suggests people must choose between privacy and security. The assumption is that we cannot have both. Schneier said that’s incorrect. We can have both.
“It’s a stupid talking point. It’s not…security vs privacy. It’s security vs security,” he said. “There are security benefits to having an Internet-connected cloud-based security camera. There are security benefits to not having one.”
The safest choice, he adds, is the one he chose—not having one at all.