Amazon’s Ring Will Pay $US5.8 Million Penance for Passing Around Your Videos

Amazon’s Ring Will Pay $US5.8 Million Penance for Passing Around Your Videos

Amazon will pay the FTC $US5.8 million to settle a lawsuit accusing the company of violating user privacy with its Ring video doorbells. According to the settlement, announced Wednesday, Ring gave every single employee unrestricted access to users’ videos, including third-party contractors with no special training in handling sensitive content. Thanks to the lax approach, the FTC says, Ring users were subjected to voyeurism and peeping Toms.

“Ring’s disregard for privacy and security exposed consumers to spying and harassment,” said Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a press release. “The FTC’s order makes clear that putting profit over privacy doesn’t pay.”

According to the FTC’s complaint, Ring had zero technical or procedural protections for users’ videos until 2017, giving employees and contractors alike unrestricted access to watch, download, and share the footage — even if the videos had nothing to do with a particular employee’s jobs.

The risks posed by Ring’s lackadaisical approach problems with Ring aren’t hypothetical, according to the FTC’s complaint. For example, the lawsuit says one Ring employee watched thousands of videos from at least 81 female Ring users, including both customers and company employees. The unnamed voyeur searched for cameras labelled with names including “Master Bedroom,” “Master Bathroom,” or “Spy Cam.” Reports in outlets including the Intercept and the Information found similar problems: Ukrainian Ring contractors had similar access. Amazon previously said it fired four employees for inappropriately watching user videos.

A few million dollars is a laughably small sum for Amazon, a company that purchased Ring for $US1.8 billion five years ago and reported $US524.89 billion dollars of revenue in 2022. But it’s part of an ongoing effort at the FTC in recent months to bring landmark privacy cases and establish precedent for the rest of the tech business. Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

So far, the FTC reached four privacy settlements with technology companies in 2023. One was GoodRX, which used prescription data for ads without consent. Another was was the fertility app Premom, which did the same with data about people’s menstrual cycles. In both of those cases, the companies faced paltry fines that will have little effect on their businesses. The most recent example was Edmodo, a company that actually went out of business during the FTC’s investigation, meaning there is no money for the government to collect.

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