WASHINGTON – Amazon’s controversial surveillance camera company, Ring, is making a feeble attempt to regain trust. So feeble, it’s pathetic. In the wake of a string of harrowing reports of Amazon cameras being hacked and used to spy on families and children—as well as widespread concerns about the ways that Ring’s partnerships with police undermine civil liberties and encourage racial profiling—the company has unveiled a new “privacy dashboard,” which amounts to little more than a cosmetic redesign accompanied by a press release.
Fight for the Future deputy director Evan Greer issued the following thoughts in response to Ring’s announcement:
“I honestly expected Ring to do a better job pretending to care about user privacy, but this is a total joke.
Amazon is still putting the responsibility on users to protect these devices, knowing full well that they won’t. You can’t sell a car without seat belts or airbags and then say the driver should have installed them when they get in a crash. Amazon is selling cheap, insecure, Internet- connected surveillance cameras and convincing people to put them inside their homes, knowing that they put those people in danger. Their rushed PR cover up doesn’t even begin to fix that.
Despite a string of terrifying stories about Ring cameras being accessed in the most grotesque ways, the company doesn’t appear to be making any meaningful changes to their product. Instead, they’ve basically given their app a re-design and called it a new feature. They’re still not requiring users to have two-factor authentication, something that should be a default on a product as sensitive as a surveillance camera that might be placed inside a child’s bedroom. There’s no indication that Ring has addressed the gaping security holes that Motherboard identified, like the fact that they’re not rate limiting login attempts, leaving their devices vulnerable to brute force attacks and credential stuffing, or doing basic IP detection to tell a user that someone is attempting to log in to their account from multiple different countries at the same time. There’s also no indication that they plan to require users to use strong passwords or will prevent them from using passwords that are known to be exposed from previous data breaches.SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT
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The fact is that even if Ring fixed all of its security flaws, these devices would still be dangerous. Ring’s entire business model is based on thinly veiled racism –– spreading fear and convincing people that they need Amazon’s surveillance devices to keep their families safe from a dangerous outside world. But the evidence suggests that Ring devices actually put families at greater risk.
And there’s a bigger story here. Ring’s announcement is solely focused on the privacy of its users. The company doesn’t even pretend to care about the privacy, safety, or civil liberties of Ring owners’ neighbors, community members, delivery workers operating in their area. Their announcement does nothing to address the serious concerns raised by racial justice, immigration, and civil liberties groups about the dangers inherent in a world full of privately owned surveillance devices. Allowing users to opt-out of receiving requests from police for footage won’t stop police from vacuuming up enormous amounts of sensitive data on our communities. And Amazon has openly admitted that there are no limits on what police can do with that footage, or how long they can store it once they’ve collected it.
Crime has been steadily falling for decades. But Amazon wants you to be afraid. They want you to distrust and spy on your neighbors. Their surveillance-based business model is fundamentally at odds with community safety and basic rights. These devices are corrosive for our society. They encourage racial profiling and over-policing of vulnerable communities.
Before you buy one of these devices, ask yourself: is it worth ushering in a dystopian surveillance state to watch someone steal a package that the police will do nothing about and Amazon will just replace with the click of a button? Is there a better way to address issues like petty crime and income inequality that doesn’t put our most basic rights at risk?”