Amazon's Ring reportedly gave unrestricted camera access to employees

Fancy some work

Each video file was linked to the device's owner, and according to The Information, the employees regularly watched customer recordings to help train Ring's object-detection AI.

At CES, Ring announced an internet-connected video doorbell that fits into peepholes for apartment dwellers or college students who can't install one next to their doors.

Even more damning is the claim that "executives and engineers" in the US were given "highly privileged access", allowing them "unfiltered, round-the-clock live feeds from some customer cameras". Customers can choose to share some information - such as photos of the hair cut they got last time they visited a salon - but the businesses can't access anything stored in user profiles unless users specifically allow them to.

Regarding this new report, The Intercept also disclosed that a Ring R&D team in Ukraine could access a folder containing "every video created by every Ring camera around the world". 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. "Even with suitably strong policies in place, the question of whether Ring owners should trust a company that ever considered the above permissible will remain an open one".

Amazon acquired Ring in February of a year ago. In fact, the Ring Doorbell 2 was one of the best-selling smart home devices on Amazon during the 2018 holiday season. They also said that "if [someone] knew a reporter or competitor's email address, [they] could view all their cameras". Having previously reported on such alleged employee access in December, the Information said in its own report that users early on frequently complained of triggered alerts for such innocuous activity as a passing vehicle.

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We take the privacy and security of our customers' personal information extremely seriously.

According to the Intercept, this high-level access was provided to the company's team in Ukraine in part because of failures in Ring's object and facial recognition technology and in an attempt to better its product. 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.

A never-before-published image from an internal Ring document pulls back the veil of the company's lofty security ambitions: Behind all the computer sophistication was a team of people drawing boxes around strangers, day in and day out, as they struggled to grant some semblance of human judgment to an algorithm.

Ring said that the videos used to improve its service come from "publicly shared Ring videos from the Neighbors app", along with customers who have given explicit written consent for their use. Ring security cameras, which are made by an Amazon-owned company and can be installed on doorbells, garages, and bookshelves, reportedly gave unrestricted access to the camera feed and video recordings of a customer's home and property to the company's research and development team and a small bunch of other employees as well. "In addition, we have zero tolerance for abuse of our systems and if we find bad actors who have engaged in this behaviour, we will take swift action against them".

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