Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Home surveillance technology is incredibly useful. For pet owners, it’s a way of monitoring those fluffy family members while we’re away. Responsible adults can keep a watchful eye on children in their cribs from another room. Ring doorbells, meanwhile, allow us to keep watch over who’s at our doors, ensure we don’t miss deliveries, and perform other invaluable functions.
Ring is, it seems, the biggest name in the business. In June 2022, Businesswire released a Strategy Analytics report that revealed that Ring’s doorbell outsold its competitors by an incredible margin, with 1.4 million sales. A Ring doorbell’s now-familiar chime, then, should be comforting for residents, an assurance of protection akin to the telltale yellow of a Yale security system.
Its mere presence should be, and frequently is, a deterrent. However, the issue with such cameras is that, if compromised, they can provide a window into the owner’s world that was never intended to be used. This, shockingly, was the case when some Ring employees were reportedly found to have used the system to spy on owners. Ring is, after all, always watching (perhaps unless the power goes out).
Ring’s invasion of privacy
Smith Collection/gado/Getty Images
On May 31, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission issued a frightening proposal detailing some abuses of Ring technology by employees. The District of Columbia District Court noted in a filed complaint that “customers routinely use Ring’s indoor cameras as baby monitors and to monitor private spaces of the home, including adults’ bedrooms, children’s bedrooms, and bathrooms,” and, it seems, this most personal footage has been accessed without some users’ knowledge.
The FTC states that one Ring employee was able to access private footage of female users in such areas of their homes, and continued to do so “over several months.” Had another staff member not discovered these outrageous invasions of privacy, they may have remained undetected. It isn’t the first time such claims have been made of Ring, either: In December 2020, a case was brought against the company that comprised the complaints of no less than 15 different families, all of whom alleged that their Ring cameras had been hacked and, in some instances, used to speak to or even threaten their lives. The newspaper states that, in these instances, no explanation or resolution had been provided by Ring, and that the company saw users’ predictable passwords as the culprit.
May 2023’s proposal from the FTC saw the company face paying almost $6 million in refunding affected products, as well as implementing new security measures that govern staff access to recordings.