*Ring ring*: how enhanced security leads to a lack of privacy

2 min read

Georgia Iacovou

11 Sep 2019

Amazon’s Ring are creating a lucrative pot of consumer data for themselves — all in the name of security.

It’s interesting how one way of making yourself or your house more secure would be to get a security guard. That guard would have access to your private property and have an intimate insight on your life — in order for that relationship to work, you actually have to trust them.

This is no different to what Ring are doing as they slowly spread their influence over neighbourhoods in the USA. For context, a Ring doorbell has a camera with facial recognition, microphone, and motion censors — and it’s all remotely controlled by an app. The one difference is: do you trust Ring?

They’ve been under the spotlight recently because it’s been revealed that they are sharing data with more than 400 police departments. What Ring are doing with the police:

  1. Training police on how to convince Ring customers to hand footage over, without a warrant
  2. In return, police are following pre-approved scripts from Ring, designed to sell more doorbells
  3. Fostering a culture of paranoia across many communities, and creating a privatised surveillance network.

This is a privacy nightmare

The idealogical idea behind all of this is simple: the police are there to protect people, so giving them access to camera footage of your front door helps keep you secure. But in practice, is it not that Amazon are simply using the police as conduits to sell more doorbells and to expand their already comprehensive portfolio of data?

Good idea, poor execution: helping people be and feel more secure is a good idea — but the way Ring are doing this for their own gain, and has very little to do with helping communities. Providing more parties, more access to consumer data is an invasion of privacy — not an enhancement of security.

Providing more parties, more access to consumer data is an invasion of privacy — not an enhancement of security.

Don’t forget, Ring doorbells also have facial recognition powered by Rekognition, which is known among AI experts to be sub-par at best. Bad facial recognition software + law enforcement = not a good time for anyone.

The repercussions:

Ultimately what Amazon are doing here is selling the idea of security to hundreds of jurisdictions in the USA, and using these neighbourhoods as both data and cash cows. What we might be forgetting is that when it comes to milking a cow, data and cash are one in the same.

the author

Georgia Iacovou

Content Writer, Metomic