Amazon Ring Spied on Customers: Ordered to Pay Over $30 Million in Lawsuits

Hi there! If you‘re considering installing a smart home security camera system like Amazon Ring, you‘re probably wondering – just how private will the footage from those internet-connected cameras inside your home really be? Well, you‘re right to be concerned. Ring has faced some massive privacy scandals in recent years that led to legal action. Let‘s take a closer look at what went wrong and how you can protect your personal security in the age of smart devices.

First, a quick background on Ring. This home security camera company was purchased by Amazon for over $1 billion back in 2018, as part of Amazon‘s push into connected devices for the home. Ring‘s signature product is the video doorbell – basically, an internet-connected camera that lets you see and speak with visitors at your doorstep from your phone. Sounds pretty convenient, right?

Unfortunately, it turns out Ring‘s protections around customers‘ in-home video feeds were utterly inadequate. In 2019, it came to light that thousands of Ring employees and third-party vendors had unrestricted access to live streams from customers‘ indoor and outdoor cameras. Yikes! This systemic failure enabled Ring employees to spy on customers‘ private moments within their homes.

The most chilling privacy violation happened in 2017 in Ukraine. A Ring software engineer illicitly accessed and downloaded videos from indoor Ring cameras placed in people‘s bedrooms and bathrooms. For several months, this rogue employee spied on intimate moments of over 80 women – including fellow Ring employees. While Ring fired the worker once this criminal abuse was discovered, the company did not disclose this disturbing breach until much later.

Just last week, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that Ring will pay $5.8 million in a legal settlement for failing to implement reasonable security safeguards to protect customers‘ privacy. According to the FTC‘s complaint, Ring dismissed the ability for thousands of employees to access customer videos willy-nilly as "industry standard" – but clearly that is unacceptable when such sensitive footage is involved!

The FTC also alleged that Ring only requires a simple email verification for new users to access all stored videos. And the company allowed video data to be stored on third-party services like Dropbox unencrypted. Yikes again! These lax security standards enabled theUkraineemployee‘s spying spree, along with who knows how many other privacy violations.

How big was the scale? Based on the FTC‘s allegations, nearly 4,000 Ring employees and contractors had "virtually unfettered access" to customers‘ camera data. While we don‘t know exactly how many of Ring‘s millions of users may have had their security compromised, even one privacy breach is too many when it comes to spying inside your home!

So has Ring cleaned up its act in response to these alarming incidents? Perhaps to some degree, though experts say there is room for improvement. According to digital rights organization Fight for the Future, "Ring does not offer end-to-end encryption for videos, and grantsthird-partiestoo much access to customers’ data.” Other home camera systems like Nest boast stronger cybersecurity protections.

Clearly, many consumers are rethinking the privacy risks of filling their homes with internet-connected surveillance cameras in light of Ring‘s track record. In one recentsurvey, nearly 70% of U.S. adults expressed concern about potential hacking of smart home devices, while only 31% trust home tech companies like Amazon to keep their data private.

So what should you consider before installing devices like Ring that put cameras and microphones inside your home? Here are a few tips:

  • Research the security protocols and encryption standards before buying a particular home security system. Systems with end-to-end encryption offer the strongest safeguards.
  • Disable any features that allow your camera footage to be stored on third-party clouds rather than controlled locally on your own secured network.
  • Position indoor cameras thoughtfully in less private areas like entryways rather than bedrooms and bathrooms.
  • Update passwords and enable two-factor authentication for your accounts to prevent unauthorized logins.
  • Evaluate your comfort level with who can access the footage, and consider limiting shared access.
  • Advocate for your right to privacy by supporting stronger consumer protections around data security!

I hope these insights help you make an informed choice about how to enjoy the benefits of smart home tech like Ring without compromising your privacy and security. It‘s unfortunate that Ring allowed such disturbing abuse of customers‘ trust. Let‘s hope all home tech companies learn from these scandals and raise their standards to respect consumer privacy. We have a right to live in a convenient, connected world without giving up basic personal freedoms.

Written by Jason Striegel

C/C++, Java, Python, Linux developer for 18 years, A-Tech enthusiast love to share some useful tech hacks.