Ring let employees watch customer videos, claim reports
Smart doorbell company Ring allowed employees to share unencrypted customer videos with each other, according to reports by both the intercept and the information. The reports say that Ring, which was purchased by amazon last year, gave various teams access to unencrypted customer video files on company servers and live feeds from some customer cameras, regardless of whether that access was necessary.
The reports say that this behavior began in 2016, when Ring founder Jamie Siminoff moved the company’s efforts from San Francisco to Ukraine to save money. Sources tell The Information that for months after the Ukraine office was opened, videos were frequently transmitted without encryption. In addition, the company provided its R&D team in Ukraine with virtually unrestricted access to a folder on the company’s Amazon’s S3 cloud storage instance containing every Ring customer video. These videos were unencrypted, and could be easily downloaded and shared. The team was also given a database that linked each video to the Ring customer it belonged to.
At the same time, US-based Ring executives and engineers were granted overreaching access to “unfiltered, round-the-clock live feeds from some customer cameras.” There aren’t any documented instances of this access being abused, but a source told The Intercept:
“If [someone] knew a reporter or competitor’s email address, [they] could view all their cameras.” The source also recounted instances of Ring engineers “teasing each other about who they brought home” after romantic dates.
Ring’s Ukraine team was granted access to customer videos as a manual prop-up for underperforming AI. “Data operators” manually tagged and labeled objects in videos — like vehicles and people — in efforts to train the software’s object recognition. This team, another source tells The Intercept, watched footage from both outdoor and indoor cameras, showed other employees footage, and annotated actions like “kissing, firing guns, and stealing.”