Amazon’s Ring videos from inside customers’ homes viewed in cybercrime hotbed: reports

Owners of Amazon’s Ring home-security systems can see inside and outside their homes remotely — but so can a bunch of tech workers in a hotbed of cybercrime, new reports suggest.

E-commerce giant Amazon bought Ring for $853 million last year, and the New York Times’ popular Wirecutter website soon deemed Ring’s video-equipped doorbell a worthy addition to home security.

But in addition to the doorbells, and a variety of outdoor cameras and sensors, Ring also sells indoor cameras that integrate with its home-security system, and Wirecutter has now added a warning to its review: “A recent story in The Intercept alleges that Ring may have allowed its employees inappropriate and potentially unrestricted access to its customers’ video streams or recordings.”

The Intercept, a tech-focused news site, reported that despite Ring’s mission to keep homes and their occupants secure, “the company’s treatment of customer video feeds has been anything but.”

The company gave its Ukraine-based R&D team “virtually unfettered access” to “every video created by every Ring camera around the world,” according to The Intercept.

“The Ukraine team was also provided with a corresponding database that linked each specific video file to corresponding specific Ring customers,” the site reported.

Citing unnamed sources, The Intercept reported that the Ukraine team was allowed to watch the video feeds so they could improve the company’s image-recognition software by identifying objects in imagery by tagging them.

“A second source, with direct knowledge of Ring’s video-tagging efforts, said that the video annotation team watches footage not only from the popular outdoor and doorbell camera models, but from household interiors,” The Intercept reported, adding that the process still appears to be in use at the company.

“The source said that Ring employees at times showed each other videos they were annotating and described some of the things they had witnessed, including people kissing, firing guns, and stealing.”

The site’s reporting followed an article on investigative-journalism website The Information that first exposed the purported practice, pointing to late 2016 as the estimated time it started, and noting the significance of the R&D team’s location.

“The risk was heightened in Ukraine, a hotbed of cybercrime,” according to The Information.

“If the information were to fall into the wrong hands, it could give would-be thieves a virtual guide for when to break into someone’s home.”

Amazon had imposed stricter controls on Ring employees’ viewing of video, according to The Intercept. “Employees in Ukraine are no longer allowed to download and store videos on their computers, for example,” the site reported.

Ring spokesperson Yassi Shahmiri told The Intercept the company takes customers’ personal information very seriously.

“In order to improve our service, we view and annotate certain Ring videos,” Shahmiri said.

“These videos 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.

“We hold our team members to a high …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Business


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