Ring, for its part, has said that much of the reason it had given employees access to these videos is to help train Ring's software to better recognize objects. Unbeknownst to their clients, the Ring employees allegedly watched and shared among each other videos of customers going about their daily lives, including "kissing, firing guns, and stealing".
Of more concern is the Ring's alleged practice of giving its U.S. executives and engineers "highly privileged" access to the company's support system, allowing them to look up customers by email address and access all of their cameras. Thanks to a report from The Intercept, Ring customers should be more anxious about the company's employees watching them than anyone else.
"We implement systems to restrict and audit access to information", Ring said. The source also claims that Ring unnecessarily gave engineers and executives in the US access to the technical support video portal the company operated, which gave those people unfiltered, around the clock access to live video feeds from some customer cameras with no regard to whether the Ring employees needed access to that data for their job.
The Intercept's sources said that the engineers spy on their colleagues' feeds and tease one another about the dates they would bring home.
All that's apparently required to tap into the live feeds is a customer's email address. In December, The Information reported that the company gave its engineers in Ukraine access to video histories via Amazon's S3 cloud, which contained all the videos ever captured by its products. Ring is a manufacturing company responsible for producing smart doorbells and cameras. Using a corresponding database, those same employees could link specific video files to the owner's Ring account.
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. Amazon acquired Ring at $1billion on February 2018.
We take the privacy and security of our customers' personal information extremely seriously. 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.
A Ring spokesperson told The Intercept that the videos used to improve its service are sourced from "publicly shared Ring videos from the Neighbors app", as well as from Ring customers that have consented to such use. 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.
California-based Ring first caught the spotlight with a failed quest for funding about five years ago on reality television show Shark Tank.