Shocking Absolutely No One, Ring Admits Employees Improperly Accessed Customers' Data
from the who-could-have-seen-this-coming dept
I realize this is beginning to resemble a beating that continues long past the point the victim has lapsed into unconsciousness. But if Ring hadn’t made itself such an inviting punching bag, I would not continue to rain down printed blows on its oh so very soft body.
Ring first grabbed our attention by offering up a snitch app that encouraged neighbors to start talking about suspicious people in their neighborhood. This app also happened to be a portal for the voluntary sharing of footage captured by Ring cameras, most of which were built into Ring’s “smart” doorbells.
From there, things went from bad to worse to godawful to horrendous to PR-team-on-constant-suicide-watch. It has been super-enjoyable for me (and hopefully for Techdirt readers) for two reasons:
1. Ring promiscuously got in bed with over 600 law enforcement agencies, selling them “free” cameras to hand out to homeowners with some implicit/not-so-implicit strings attached. In return, law enforcement agencies gave up their authority and autonomy, granting Ring permission to write their press releases and statements for them.
2. Ring does not care about its customers. It enjoys a commanding lead in the market, but it has produced yet another internet-connected thing that it does not bother to secure properly. When breaches happen — and they are unimaginably horrifying breaches that involve hijacked cameras — the company says customers should have done more to secure their devices, rather than accept any responsibility for doing as little as possible to prevent this sort of thing from happening.
So, the latest news is more fuel for the dumpster fire. It’s not just cops grabbing footage without bothering with the Fourth Amendment niceties. There’s also abuse happening internally — the sort of abuse you’d expect when you give people access to a wealth of personal information.
The doorbell-camera giant Ring has terminated employees in recent years for improperly accessing users’ video data, parent company Amazon told lawmakers this week, an admission that could increase pressure on the firm to prove it protects customer privacy.
The company has investigated four complaints regarding employees abusing their access to camera data over the past four years, Brian Huseman, a vice president of public policy at Amazon, wrote in a letter to five senators this week.
The company did not provide any detail about the data that was improperly accessed, but considering how much data Ring collects — along with footage from millions of cameras — the imagination is free to run wild.
This is the latest unsurprising development for Ring. Give enough people access to intimate recordings and data, and abuse is bound to happen. Maybe the Ring employees were just following the lead of their law enforcement partners, who also have access to a great deal of personal info and abuse this access with alarming frequency.
I’m sure Ring will weather this news cycle as it has every other over the past 12 months: by claiming it takes everyone’s security seriously and sending out tweets to anyone tagging the company with the latest bad news saying the coverage is inaccurate. But no one believes Ring, especially when its defensive tweets talk their way around direct questions and link to talking points delivered by Ring reps.
Ring is no longer just a dumpster fire d/b/a a security camera company. Its flaming dumpster existence is mounted to every flatbed car on a never ending train wreck. It can’t pull the plug on its thousands of buddy cops. And it appears to be far more interested in market growth than properly serving the customers it already has. Things will get worse. That’s it. There’s no “before it gets better.” At best, Ring can only hope to fade from the public eye before it alienates any more of its past and future customers.