FBI Horrified To Discover Ring Doorbells Can Tip Off Citizens To The Presence Of Federal Officers At Their Door

from the those-bastards-and-their-surreptitious-cameras dept

Ring’s camera/doorbells may as well be branded with local law enforcement agency logos. Since Amazon acquired the company, Ring has cornered the law enforcement-adjacent market for home security products, partnering with hundreds of agencies to get Ring’s products into the hands of residents. A lot of this flows directly through police departments, which can get them almost for free as long as they push citizens towards using Ring’s snitch app, Neighbors, and allow Ring to handle the PR work.

So, it’s hilarious to find out the FBI is concerned about Ring cameras, considering the company’s unabashed love for all things law enforcement. The Intercept — diving back into the “Blue Leaks” stash of exfiltrated law enforcement documents — has posted an FBI “Technical Analysis Bulletin” [PDF] warning cops about the threat Ring cameras pose to cops. After celebrating the golden age of surveillance the Internet of Things has ushered in, the FBI notes that doorbell cameras see everyone who comes to someone’s door — even if it’s people who’d rather the absent resident remained unaware of.

The document describes a 2017 incident in which FBI agents approached a New Orleans home to serve a search warrant and were caught on video. “Through the Wi-Fi doorbell system, the subject of the warrant remotely viewed the activity at his residence from another location and contacted his neighbor and landlord regarding the FBI’s presence there,” it states.

Ratted out by home security tech — the kind often pushed on residents by law enforcement officers hoping to expand their surveillance networks by deputizing doorbells. Ring’s cameras aren’t just mute witnesses. Owners receive notifications when someone comes to their door and, depending on model, are able to hold conversations with them using built-in mics and speakers.

This means the sneak-and-peek feds might have been overhead discussing their tactical plans or specifics about the investigation. Hilarious. And this is how another FBI document on the subject of doorbells puts it, turning a normal home security device into a devious tool to be wielded against law enforcement:

“[S]ubject was able to see and hear everything happening at his residence” and possibly “covertly monitor law enforcement activity while law enforcement was on the premises…”

Covert monitoring is the best monitoring, as these FBI agents are well-aware. Sucks when it’s the alleged perps doing the covert monitoring, I guess. And it sucks when the FBI decides now is the time to be hot and bothered when security cameras have been catching cops visiting/raiding properties for years. Audio recording isn’t some new technology either, so if cops haven’t been clued into this possibility already, they have no one to blame but themselves.

The documents are fascinating, and not just because they appear to turn Ring into a co-conspirator in crimes after so many years of being besties with law enforcement. It also shows how much goes unnoticed by people who routinely cite their years of training and experience when applying for search warrants. This should have been obvious from day one.

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Companies: amazon, ring

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Comments on “FBI Horrified To Discover Ring Doorbells Can Tip Off Citizens To The Presence Of Federal Officers At Their Door”

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wshuff (profile) says:

Cue Bill Barr’s angry call for tech companies to nerd harder and come up with a secure back door that lets the Ring camera see and hear everybody but law enforcement. But only real law enforcement. Not bad guys pretending to be law enforcement.

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re:

But, but..
I call it an easy solution.
Take your pick.
Frequency scrambler, for any network, 2.5/5g on your wifi is pretty simple to block. But you would also block 1/2 the neighbors..
Or just disconnect his CABLE/Digital lines. Unless someone was REALLY paranoid and setup the modem to use the wireless system/Cellphone, IT wont be going anywhere.

This is getting strange, where are the basic thinkers in any of this. It was an old way to Climb a nearby pole or call the Phone corp, and get it disconnected for a few minutes. Easy/peasy.

Bobvious says:

Re: secure backdoor

"secure back door that lets the Ring camera see and hear everybody but law enforcement."

Simples. Law enforcement just has to go to the location’s BACKDOOR instead of the front door. They’re only installing the cameras up front. Besides it won’t be long before wearable technology allows the FBI to wear special clothing with flexible LCD screens and cameras that make them appear invisible to people by showing the image behind the feds on the "screens" in front. That way the ring cameras won’t see them.

Either that, or wear a shrub.

Niko says:

Re: Re: secure backdoor

Well I believe they are already doing just EXACTLY THAT! AND they are using mind reading technology. It sounds crazy. I’m far from crazy. I have tried to warn and tell everyone but, no one will listen. I was standing smoking a cigarette about to go walking with my cousin. She doesn’t like cig smoke, so that’s why I was at the window, with it open.
I heard some people talking but didn’t see anyone. The voices were getting closer. I thought it was my neighbor, he had told me earlier in the month his son was staying with temporarily to save money.
I hadn’t seen his son, so I wanted to see if his son looked like him or his wife. So I continued to look. I didn’t see my neighbor or anyone but the voices were close, all of a sudden I saw this gas like wave in the air at the beginning of my yard. I thought wtf, I have lived hire for 13 years and never saw that before. I continued to watch. All of a sudden I saw 3 outline of bodies, walking towards the tree I had been telling my boyfriend someone(s) are hiding in, it wasn’t a big, big tree but big enough ,Not to tall.
These 3 people had on some sort of aluminum, cellophane, like (the only way I can describe it). I could only see the outline as they got close enough maybe like a few feet 7 feet I would say.
I could see behind, which made it seem as I was seeing right through them. I was blown away. I had never heard or saw anything like this before. They looked up at me, they stopped talking,they stood still. We were staring at each other. I could see no color but facial description. I could tell one was afro American, the other two were white.
I dropped the cigarette, grabbed the window edge and slammed it shut and as I was closing it I yelled " Coronavirus", the first thing that came to mind because I could not believe what I just saw.
I have been telling my family that the trees, people are camouflaged in the trees. I was messing around with binoculars one day when me and my boyfriend were out on a drive. I saw in almost every single tree people either wearing black tight ninja like clothing or tree like leaves with greenish paint and brownish like net or both.
I have been being stalked, harassed, threatened and touched sexually by these whoever’s . I have called the police with no help only to be told to STOP calling. I believe this is some type of enforcement officers. I’m threatened and called bitches all day. I had one officer tell me why don’t you just move. No, why can’t you do your job. I have audio , I have pictures they won’t even look at them. It’s strange. One day there was a loud noise going on , over and over all day. I barricaded myself in my room and called the police a couple of times, only to be told " you live by the freeway , it’s probably the noise from that" I’ve been living in this house 13 or more years never heard anything close to that. After hours and hours of being confined to my room , I was hungry and frustrated. I grabbed a weapon, a kitchen knife I had to help secure the door. And opened my bedroom door, proceeded down the hall towards the kitchen and looked back and saw a man in my bedroom ,on his knees, reaching up under the couch in my room. I was so terrified, I just kept walking. Got to the kitchen gathered myself ,got food and proceeded back to my room and saw no one. I called my sister as I was on the phone a police officer was at my front door. Short chubby guy at least that’s who he said he was. He said you called the police ?, I said " yes hours ago. He said oh yeah we were busy. I said well officer, it’s the same o same o , thanks for coming. Close the door, went back to my room and I am sitting on my bed and my curtains on my slider are open and I see that person who knocked on my door run across my backyard , holding a flashlight into some trees. I said to my sister " why did the officer just run across my backyard?" I thought maybe they caught someone, hopefully the person’s that have been harassing me. I got up ,looked out there and saw the same strange camouflaged weirdos, that harass me DAILY. Then later another officer came. Said the same . He was acting a little weird, he kept looking around. He tall and slim and wore dark brownish framed sunglasses and it was night out.. I told him another officer had came already , he acted surprised. I told him about the noise , he said well it is windy out it’s probably the trees.. it wasn’t windy.. he said" look at the trees , You see how the branches are moving". I looked briefly bc I wanted to watch his every move. The branches were moving slightly but it was the weirdos I’m sure. I looked up the suits and he were wearing bc I told my boyfriend and he said there is no such thing find what your describing on the net and then I will believe you. I couldn’t find it at first , it took about a month then I found it and it explained EVERYTHING it’s a STEALTH SUIT, they sell at JOES Surplus I believe for 13,000 , it’s supposed to be for military use only , it charges , the charge last for about four hours. And if this isn’t the police , bad guys have gotten their hands on them and they are DANGEROUS

Anonymous Coward says:

Technology is objective ,it can be used to catch burglars or watch the cops fbi breaking into a home.
It can be used to spy on innocent citizens or else used to record extreme police brutality towards innocent black people .
It sounds like the fbi were trying to look for documents or evidence but did not expect the criminal to have acess to a ring camera.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
BernardoVerda (profile) says:

Re: Re: well

What an excellent idea.

Make it Standard Operating Procedure to deactivate a security/surveillance system — without the owner’s consent or knowledge — whenever some unrelated party would find it convenient to subvert the owners security…

What could possibly go wrong?

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: "Hang on"

Of course not. That’s what no-knock warrants are for.

Or you can just spy the camera and consider that sufficient evidence of malfeasance to justify armed intrusion.

The use civil forfeiture law to rip the whole Ring setup straight out of the wall and cart it off as "probably guilty of something".

rkhalloran (profile) says:

Cops don't get it both ways...

On the one hand, they want everyone with Ring-or-similar to volunteer them to LE to avoid them actually having to do boots-on-the-ground patrolling. On the other hand, it creates an offsite copy of any cases of their overstepping (dang, can’t just seize and "lose" someone’s cell phone to cover up), which I’m sure any lawyers looking to have QI overturned will find soooo useful.

Rocky says:

That old joke...

This reminds me of an old joke:

Police knocks on the door.
Resident: Who’s there?
Police: It’s the police.
Resident: What do you want?
Police: We just wanna talk.
Resident: How many of you are there?
Police: Four
Resident: Then talk to each other!

I guess now we can shorten it down to:

Resident: What do you want?
Police: We just wanna talk.
Resident: Then talk to each other!

Damn Ring, destroying jokes like that…

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Illegally recording law enforcement

It’s all right. We’re arrested for who we are not what we did. That comes later and justifies the arrest, but it’s really because someone didn’t like our skin color, our religion, our lifestyle, our choice of partners, whatever. They don’t arrest the good ones.

It won’t matter much once we’re uncitizened and incarcerated.

idearat (profile) says:

Time for some spy vs spy

Since there’s an option to let local law enforcement monitor your Ring cameras, the next step could be for them to ask Ring to give them the ability to block motion detection and recording for a region around the house in question.

Then users will will get a 3rd party app that monitors the realtime feed and notify them if it goes dark. Optionally starting up an an alternate camera.

Then law enforcement encourages Ring to disable the 3rd party app access due to "security concerns"

On a related note, a friend had me install a Ring doorbell ( against my better judgement) and when it asked for the address as part of the setup we gave it a non-existant address between two house numbers on the other side the street. No sense making it too easy for a potential hacker to know which house has people coming or going or packages on the porch.

TRX says:

Ring is buddy-buddy with the cops. What will happen now is, the police will simply request that any Ring devices nearby – not just at the warrant address – be blocked from the system or remotely turned off while the police are there. And Ring will happily comply.

If they’d been smart, they would have used the Ring video to make sure their targets were, you know, actually home, before armoring up and charging out of the station…

Cops don’t like to be watched; that’s why so many of them strongly oppose bodycams. And that’s why I wear a bodycam, and my homebuilt home security system spools video to an off-site server.

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