French company CareOS showcased a smart mirror that lets you "try on" different hairstyles. But the Intercept said the Amazon-owned company was also allowing some high-level engineers in the U.S.to view customers' video feeds, while others in the Ukraine office could view and download any customer video file. This has also been something of an open secret within the company, with Intercept sources recalling how engineers sometimes teased each other about who they brought home after dates. Thanks to a report from The Intercept, Ring customers should be more anxious about the company's employees watching them than anyone else.
A source familiar with the troubling practice told The Intercept that Ring also provided senior executives and engineers in the USA with access to unfiltered live feeds from customer cameras - even though having access to such sensitive data was not necessarily required to carry out their jobs.
The Ukraine team reportedly had a database that allowed them to connect a video with the customer from which the video originated.
Consumer-level smart video doorbells and security cameras have become immensely popular, but some anxious that the video feeds could be hijacked by those with malicious intents. Recent reports from The Intercept and The Information have accused the company of mishandling videos collected by its line of smart home devices, failing to inform users that their videos would be reviewed by humans and failing to protect the sensitive video footage itself with encryption. Customers can choose to share some information - such as photos of the hair cut they got last time they visited a salon - but the businesses can't access anything stored in user profiles unless users specifically allow them to.
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It might be time to throw your Ring cameras in the garbage.
All those clips the Ring devices would save in the cloud.
The appeal of products like Nest cameras or Amazon Ring is their convenience, affordability, and simplicity.
Ring sells doorbells (left) that capture video and audio. Amazon-owned Ring has been one of the top players in these niches for a few years, but if you've purchased any of the company's products in the past, you may want to consider unplugging them and getting something else.
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Ring went on to win backing from the likes of billionaire Richard Branson and Amazon's Alexa Fund.
Ring, in response to The Intercept's enquiry, stated that the videos viewed and annotated by their staff are in fact publicly-shared videos from their Neighbors service, and selected users who've explicitly consented to the sharing of their videos - while not explicitly denying the allegations it does seem to imply that the Ukranian-based development team does not have access to any and all videos. The company says it will abide by Europe's stronger privacy rules, which took effect in May, regardless of where a customer lives.
A Ring spokesperson told The Intercept that employees could view only the videos that have been shared using Neighbors, the company's community watch app, "in accordance with its terms of services". "In addition, we have zero tolerance for abuse of our systems and if we find bad actors who have engaged in this behaviour, we will take swift action against them".
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