Senator blasts Amazon's Ring doorbell as an 'open door for privacy and civil liberty violations'

Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., called the lack of privacy protections "chilling."

November 20, 2019, 2:06 PM

A "chilling" investigation from a Massachusetts lawmaker alleges Amazon's Ring smart doorbell has gaping privacy concerns -- including that footage of you and your family could potentially be used, shared and even sold by law enforcement.

“Connected doorbells are well on their way to becoming a mainstay of American households, and the lack of privacy and civil rights protections for innocent residents is nothing short of chilling,” Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., said in a statement Tuesday.

PHOTO: In this July 16, 2019, file photo, Ernie Field pushes the doorbell on his Ring doorbell camera at his home in Wolcott, Conn.
In this July 16, 2019, file photo, Ernie Field pushes the doorbell on his Ring doorbell camera at his home in Wolcott, Conn.
Jessica Hill/AP, FILE

Markey added that Ring's policies "are an open door for privacy and civil liberty violations."

"If you’re an adult walking your dog or a child playing on the sidewalk, you shouldn’t have to worry that Ring’s products are amassing footage of you and that law enforcement may hold that footage indefinitely or share that footage with any third parties," he said. "Amazon’s Ring is marketed to help keep families safe, but privacy rights are in real danger as a result of company policies. Amazon is not doing enough to ensure that its products and practices do not run afoul of our civil liberties.”

Ring has no security requirements for law enforcement officials to gain access to users' footage, and no restrictions on them sharing it with third parties, according to the findings of the investigation released by Markey's office. Ring also "refuses to commit to not selling users' biometric data," according to the findings.

Markey also released correspondence between his office and Amazon's vice president of public policy, Brian Huseman, who wrote that while Ring does not currently offer facial recognition technology as part of its services, also said that the company does "frequently innovate based on customer demand, and facial recognition features are increasingly common in consumer security cameras today," and listed other cameras on the market that offer the technology.

“Ring users place their trust in us to help protect their homes and communities, and we take that responsibility very seriously," a Ring spokesperson told ABC News in a statement Wednesday. "Ring does not own or otherwise control users’ videos, and we intentionally designed the Neighbors Portal to ensure that users get to decide whether or not to voluntarily provide their videos to the police. Details about how we work with law enforcement and how we protect user privacy can be found in the following blog post by Jamie Siminoff, Founder of Ring.”

On its website, Ring emphasizes that the user is in control of their privacy, and states that "we do not sell your video recordings."

"In response to legal proceedings or requests from government agencies, we will not, without the customer’s consent, disclose video recordings unless necessary to comply with the law or, in the case of government requests, there is an emergency involving danger of death or serious injury," their site states. "We object to overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course. For additional information, see our privacy notice."

The company also states that "nobody can view your video recordings unless you allow it or you share them."

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