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Ring Employees Were Given Access To Customers' Videos: Report

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UPDATE: A Ring spokesperson sent Tech Times the statement below:

"We take the privacy and security of our customers' personal information extremely seriously. In order to improve our service, we view and annotate certain Ring video recordings. These recordings are sourced exclusively from publicly shared Ring videos from the Neighbors app (in accordance with our terms of service), and from a small fraction of Ring users who have provided their explicit written consent to allow us to access and utilize their videos for such purposes. Ring employees do not have access to livestreams from Ring products.

We have strict policies in place for all our team members. We implement systems to restrict and audit access to information. We hold our team members to a high ethical standard and anyone in violation of our policies faces discipline, including termination and potential legal and criminal penalties. In addition, we have zero tolerance for abuse of our systems and if we find bad actors who have engaged in this behavior, we will take swift action against them."

They also added that "Ring does not provide employees with access to livestreams of Ring devices."

ORIGINAL STORY: Reports claim that Ring, which was purchased by Amazon for more than $1 billion in 2018, lets its employees access its customers' video feeds.

Assuming these are true, then the smart home company has been violating its users' privacy since 2016 when founder Jamie Siminoff moved its operations to Ukraine from San Francisco.

'Highly Privileged Access'

According to The Intercept, sources said that Ring's local and abroad employees were given "highly privileged access" to live feeds. In December, The Information reported that the company gave its engineers in Ukraine access to video histories via Amazon's S3 cloud, which contained all the videos ever captured by its products. What's worse is that these videos were unencrypted.

The brand sells things like video doorbells and security cameras, and through them, the recordings were acquired.

No Transparency

Engineers were given access to these feeds to develop the company's artificial intelligence efforts. However, customers had no way of knowing that an employee would have this privilege, as it wasn't mentioned in the terms of service and privacy policy.

After Amazon's acquisition, the firm increased its security to prevent workers from breaching customers' privacy and downloading videos, but the measures were circumvented.

Lax Restrictions

The Intercept's sources said that the engineers spy on their colleagues' feeds and tease one another about the dates they would bring home. They also said that "if [someone] knew a reporter or competitor's email address, [they] could view all their cameras."

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."

The rest of the response is what one would expect, with the company saying that it doesn't tolerate unethical behavior and that there are strict policies implemented for all its workers.

"[W]e have zero tolerance for abuse of our systems and if we find bad actors who have engaged in this behavior, we will take swift action against them," the representative said.

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