January 11, 2019updated 12 Aug 2019 2:06pm

Amazon Ring spying reports prompt “major privacy concerns”

By Lucy Ingham

Reports that the video feeds from Amazon-owned security camera Ring can be viewed by the company’s employees with just an email address have sparked deep privacy concerns.

The Amazon Ring spying news, which was reported by The Intercept citing unnamed sources, gave examples of engineers viewing each other’s Ring security camera feeds without permission in order to see who they brought home after a date.

The system could also allow such employees to view the feeds of customers unconnected to the company with just an email address, although there were no reports of serious abuse of this high-level access.

Amazon Ring spying concerns raised

The news has prompted concern from privacy experts, who argue that although Ring’s security services give valid reasons for having access to these feeds, the way the company handles their processing opens the door to abuse.

“There are some major privacy concerns here,” said Adam Brown, manager of security solutions at Synopsys.

“While users may consent to their images and data being processed in order for the service to identify real intruders from cats for example, the issue is where the processing is done.

“Perhaps users believe processing is done on the camera and are therefore happy to have these devices inside their home; some may even be happy for that image data to be processed in a data centre somewhere, but for that data to be watched by human eyes is a totally different question.”

Key to the issue is the fact that Ring security cameras can be used inside the home – not just at the door as with some security solutions.

“Imagine you have this camera inside your house, and you find yourself in a compromising position and the camera sees that,” said Brown.

“The employee watching on the other side finds it hilarious and is upset by their ‘long monotonous work’ (as the job description states) and decides to share the camera’s video in some way on their exit from their job. Someone’s day or even life is ruined.”

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