Not only could the team access the videos of people in and around their own homes, but the team also knew precisely who the Ring customers were.
Additionally, executives and engineers in the USA were reportedly given access to Ring's technical support video portal, essentially giving them the keys to live video feeds from customer cameras. 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. In addition to Ring deciding against encrypting video files as it was a costly endeavor that would also lose the company revenue opportunities, R&D employees in Ukraine had access to a folder with "every video created by every Ring camera around the world". The source did claim that Ring engineers were known to tease each other about who they brought home after dates.
All that's apparently required to tap into the live feeds is a customer's email address. Ring is a manufacturing company responsible for producing smart doorbells and cameras.
As you might remember, Amazon bought Ring about a year ago for over $1 billion.
"We take the privacy and security of our customers" personal information extremely seriously, ' the spokesperson told the Intercept. That group has reportedly had access to the videos since 2016.
Privacy concerns are mounting over internet-connected smart home devices after a video doorbell company owned by Amazon was found to have been quietly revealing "unfiltered, round-the-clock" user videos to a team of researchers in Ukraine. At the time, the files were unencrypted because Ring's leaders felt "encryption would make the company less valuable". It's not clear that participants in the Neighbors app are aware that their videos are being reviewed manually by Ring's "data operators" in Ukraine.More news: Ocasio-Cortez Campaign Fined For Denying Employees Proper Benefits
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A Ring spokesperson claimed that the company only views and annotates videos that are "sourced exclusively from publicly shared Ring videos" or come from a handful of Ring users who have voluntarily provided access to their videos. 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.
'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 added.
According to The Intercept, Ring's Neighbours service struggled with object identification, leading to the employment of the Ukrainian team to help teach the cameras to identify things correctly. Meaning, the company has been so egregiously lax when it comes to security and privacy that even people outside the company could have potentially done this, using merely an email address to begin spying on customers, according to the report.
In response to the Intercept and The information's reports, Ring has said that employees were only given access to videos that were made public through its community watch program, Neighbors.
Ring failed to comment on the company's past data policies and changes compared to the current policy.