Amazon Ring: Does it ring any privacy bells? (pun intended)
At first glance, what’s not to like about the Amazon Ring, an internet enabled doorbell that allows you to communicate with and actually view a live stream of whoever is ringing your doorbell, from anywhere in the world? On the surface, it sounds great, it’s small, sleek, has great battery life and works well. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, think about it for a minute.
We tend to think as individuals, I have a video doorbell and this gives me access to my video footage of my front door, which is all well and good. But then consider how the system works and ‘zoom out’ if you will. The video footage from your doorbell is transmitted via the internet to Amazon’s servers. Now add in everyone else in your street, town or country that has an Amazon Ring and you’ll start to get a glimpse of the bigger picture.
Amazon Ring: The bigger picture
All of a sudden, Amazon now has a global network of door mounted security cameras and the facial recognition technology and computing power to analyse the streams in near real time.
Amazon is not a government body, it is not democratically elected and it doesn’t answer to anyone other than it’s shareholders and yet, it will now control potentially the largest network of surveillance cameras ever assembled and has the ability to analyse the data. Big brother indeed!
Now you might think, that any information captured by YOUR video doorbell on YOUR front door, would belong to you. Nope! Read the small print and you’ll find that Amazon and it’s licensee’s hold “an unlimited, irrevocable, fully paid, and royalty-free, perpetual, worldwide right to re-use, distribute store, delete, translate, copy, modify, display, sell, create derivative works”. You might have access to your data, but don’t for one second think that you own it.
Unfortunately, it’s yet another case of unintended consequences, if you were to have one of these video doorbells, it would be a neat bit of kit. Multiply that out by hundreds of thousands and it becomes far more sinister with repercussions for all our privacy.
Here’s some more reading on this topic, if you’re interested:
Amazon’s Ring Is a Perfect Storm of Privacy Threats by EFF.org
Amazon Acquires Ring, Maker of Video Doorbells by WSJ.com
Update: 30th August, 2019
The UK’s Guardian newspaper has picked up on the EFF’s earlier article highlighting the ways in which Ring is ‘encouraging’ US police departments to promote their device and services: Amazon’s doorbell camera Ring is working with police – and controlling what they say