Amazon Tells Ukraine Publication To Alter Its Article After It Links The Company To Ring's Problematic Ukraine Branch

from the burnt-by-your-own-source dept

An extremely-problematic wing of an extremely-problematic company is back in the news. Ring's Ukraine division made headlines last fall when the presence of a "Head of Facial Recognition Tech" in the Ukraine office appeared to contradict Ring's claims it was not interested in adding facial recognition to its cameras.

More disturbing news surfaced earlier this month, when it was discovered this office had allowed its employees to view Ring camera footage uploaded by users. Ring doesn't just produce doorbell cameras. It also sells in-home cameras, making this revelation particularly worrying.

Beginning in 2016, according to one source, Ring provided its Ukraine-based research and development team virtually unfettered access to a folder on Amazon’s S3 cloud storage service that contained every video created by every Ring camera around the world. This would amount to an enormous list of highly sensitive files that could be easily browsed and viewed. Downloading and sharing these customer video files would have required little more than a click. The Information, which has aggressively covered Ring’s security lapses, reported on these practices last month.

Not only did the R&D team have complete access to customers' recordings, so did Ring's US-based engineers and executives. And who knows how many other people have accessed these recordings illicitly? When this access was granted to an untold number of Ring employees, Ring did not encrypt uploaded recordings. The company apparently felt encryption was too expensive to implement and would possibly limit revenue opportunities for the company as it aggressively moved into the home security market.

It turns out the company was using customers' footage to train its AI to recognize faces and other objects. This would be the same facial recognition Ring swears it isn't going to be implementing anytime soon.

Apparently, this abuse of trust has resulted in growth opportunities for Ring-Ukraine. A recent article by Ukranian publication Vector stated the office would be lending its expertise to other Amazon products, which possibly includes Rekognition, Amazon's homegrown facial recognition program.

But that story was buried by Amazon PR shortly after it appeared, according to Sam Biddle of The Intercept.

I asked multiple Amazon representatives and Ring’s head of communications about the Vector article, including specifically what were the “many other Amazon projects” Ring’s Ukrainian staff now worked on.

Although Amazon ignored repeated requests for comment and Ring refused to discuss the subject on the record, it seems that the company did take action: Within hours of my inquiries, the text of the Vector piece was quietly edited to remove references to Amazon. Most notably, the entire quoted sentence about the “many other Amazon projects” the Kyiv office was working on was excised.

The author of the story told The Intercept he had nothing to do with the belated deletion. In fact, he was not aware of any editing until The Intercept brought it to his attention. An email from Vector's editor-in-chief explained the situation, although not all that satisfactorily.

We published a news about rebranding, later pr-manager of Ring Ukraine called me and asked to take Amazon mention out from the article. Since I had a good relationship with manager, the article got just several dozens of views and I understood that everyone know that Ring is part of Amazon anyway, I didn’t even asked questions, said ok and took Amazon part out

It appears Amazon doesn't want people to know it has given a problematic division even more responsibility. It also may be trying to head off another Ring-related PR nightmare by removing any text that might suggest Ring customer recordings are being used to train facial recognition software used by government agencies.

But it's too late to change public perception. The scrubbing may keep Amazon from being linked to unfettered access to Ring camera recordings in search results, but there's no separating Amazon from Ring. And there's nothing here that suggests either company is moving away from leveraging user-generated content to fine-tune AI for the customers they really want: law enforcement agencies.

Filed Under: journalism, ring, ukraine
Companies: amazon, ring


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 30 Jan 2020 @ 11:29am

    I hope they at least believe their excuse...

    Since I had a good relationship with manager, the article got just several dozens of views and I understood that everyone know that Ring is part of Amazon anyway, I didn’t even asked questions, said ok and took Amazon part out

    If 'everyone already knows' then exactly what was the problem with leaving the references to Amazon in again? The only reason to remove that bit of information is to prevent people from realizing that the two are linked, and/or avoid highlighting it so those that might have forgotten aren't reminded and in turn don't remember some other articles/claims regarding the two.

    The idea that Amazon scrambled to have the article edited because they didn't want parts of it to be redundant is just laughably weak, and has all the hallmarks of an excuse that was not thought out before being offered.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Jan 2020 @ 12:29pm

    Neat, we exported the Streisand Effect to Ukraine!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 30 Jan 2020 @ 12:57pm

    Ring spyware

    Owned and operated by Amazon. Time for everyone to buy Jeff Bezos masks...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bobvious, 30 Jan 2020 @ 2:31pm

    ЯꚄФГИЇТЇФИ

    Sounds like all that Ring data is hosted on Amazon.nyet

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Zof (profile), 30 Jan 2020 @ 2:56pm

    That bar man

    Companies like IBM used to get crucified by the public when they'd do stuff like this. They'd feel shame, and go into hiding for a few years. Exxon, same thing. Now? They just call up Michael Bloomberg and Jeff Bezos and Jeff Zucker and makes sure the story gets killed, like Bezo's cheating on his wife for example.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Rocky, 30 Jan 2020 @ 3:02pm

      Re: That con man

      Like Bezo's cheating on his wife

      Which was all over the news for quite a while..so..how about another example that actually happened?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        icon
        Zof (profile), 30 Jan 2020 @ 3:10pm

        Re: Re: That con man

        For two days, and got downplayed. He literally did exactly what trump did, but didn't get two months of coverage.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 30 Jan 2020 @ 4:07pm

          He literally did exactly what trump did, but didn't get two months of coverage.

          Gee, it’s almost as if Bezos wasn’t running for the most powerful political office in the country~. Imagine that~.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 30 Jan 2020 @ 11:34pm

          Re: Re: Re: That con man

          It’s almost like you’re extremely stupid AND way out of date.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Rocky, 31 Jan 2020 @ 12:42am

          Re: Re: Re: That con man

          Downplayed?

          I see you don't really understand news-cycles, especially in regards of the difference between a person who is a CEO and someone who is running for president.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        icon
        Zof (profile), 30 Jan 2020 @ 3:15pm

        Re: Re: That con man

        OH, and HAHAHHAHAHA how short is your memory? Remember a guy named Epstein that somehow Epstein'd himself?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 30 Jan 2020 @ 4:08pm

      They don’t call people like Bloomberg and Bezos. They call people like McConnell and Trump — because no one runs more defense for corporations than Republican politicians.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2020 @ 2:09am

    If you install a camera in your home and uploads its video to some storage location that you dont control then you are an absolute idiot.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2020 @ 12:58pm

      Re:

      You could zoom the cam in on a little stage and perform little plays with stick figures and claymation.

      Oh No Mr. Bill !

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2020 @ 11:28am

    Ring under direct instructions from Amazon keeps ALL the footage.

    And has sold this to criminal organizations, terrorists, chinese governments tracking down dissidents who've escaped the hellhole that china has become under President Pooh and vice-president Eyore.

    Who'd be stupid enough to even OWN a ring camera? only a braindamaged tub of yogurt.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2020 @ 11:30am

    Wait til you see how Amazon has linked alexas sound device via Ring.

    They re-package sound data as (what would appear to be scrambled) video data and have Ring pump that continuously to Amazon's datacentres, where it's turned back into sound.

    In this way, if you check the traffic from Alexa on your home network, you won't see Alexa sending ANY sound files at all until it's woken with the keyword.

    Even though it's recording 24/7, and bypassing regular checks, hiding the data in the MUCH larger ring dataflow.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    tz, 2 Feb 2020 @ 4:54pm

    For a few dollars more...

    I'm sure Hunter Biden could get this straightened out very quickly and get a seat on the board of the media company

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    GLENF THOMAS, 7 Feb 2020 @ 1:12am

    Hacker

    CONTACT US FOR ALL KINDS OF HACKING JOB @ glenfthomas@gmail.com TEXT ON (770) 824-6784 We offer professional hacking services

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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