Yesterday, I gave a presentation to a group of insurance producers and marketers. We reviewed technology insurance trends, how to present the need for coverage, and common mistakes on applications.
If you’ve ever attended one of my events, then you’ll know I bring in recent security and privacy news. I do this for two reasons: the people I am educating have a professional role and they also have lives outside of work. The educational info, how-to’s, and tips are purposefully shared for maximum impact.
Two items I shared yesterday: Why you should consider opting out of Amazon Sidewalk and getting rid of your Ring system. Both Amazon products and services have the potential for positive impact, but the potential for negative outweighs the positive. This is my opinion and I’ll share why.
Sidewalk has a really interesting benefit for people. If you are not familiar, then the link provides all the details from Amazon. In short, it will allow you to use other Alexa-connected devices to use someone else’s network to manage your Amazon devices (Ring, Echo, and more). Would you like others, potentially strangers, to use your network without your knowledge?
I’ve disabled my Alexa Sidewalk for now. If the EFF or other organizations have enough time to review it an render an opinion, then I’ll consider turning it back on — maybe 2022 or later. I suggest you do, as well.
Amazon bought Ring in 2018. The Ring doorbell is a great tool with a seemingly wonderful benefit for the Ring owner and the neighborhood. I do not use any Ring devices and would recommend you do not either. The same benefits can be accomplished without as many privacy issues.
This article from 2019 lists why the Ring is a “perfect storm of privacy threats”. Since that time, there have been some changes and Amazon will make police/fire requests for videos viewable by the public. This means those requestors can be reviewed to determine who is asking for what and their requests are not able to be removed by the requestor. This is a great move.
But, it isn’t enough to make me change my mind about using Ring devices.
If you own and use a Ring, then you may find these clauses from their Terms of Service interesting:
You hereby grant Ring and its licensees an unlimited, irrevocable, fee free and royalty-free, perpetual, worldwide right to use, distribute, store, delete, translate, copy, modify, display, and create derivative works from such Content that you share through our Services including, without limitation, the Ring Neighbors feature or application, the Ring Community, or via a share link, for any purpose and in any media format.
FYI – they can take your content and use it for anything without your approval or compensation.
Additionally, by electing to publicly share your Content via our Services to other users or the general public , in addition to the license granted above, you give Ring the right, without any compensation or obligation to you, to access and use your Content and related location information for the purposes of publicly sharing such recordings and information with current and future users and allowing those users to comment on the Content.
The general public?
Deleted Content and User Recordings may be stored by Ring in order to comply with certain legal obligations and are not retrievable without a valid court order.
So they say it is my intellectual property, but I give them the right to use and share it and keep it even after I delete it?
In addition to the obvious concerns, there’s one other element about any video and audio surveillance products in public places: people being recorded did not consent to being recorded. If I walk in my neighborhood, every Ring camera can record me and share with Amazon. Am I in public? Yes. Did I expect to be recorded? No.
Marketing firms have used Media Releases for years when making commercials. If a hospital make a commercial about a new wing, then everyone in the video signs a media release. Those people acknowledge they could be in the commercial – whether employees of the hospital or not.
Why Should I care? I Don’t Have Anything to Hide
Yes, you do.
A quote often attributed to Cardinal Richelieu who helped restore the French monarchy, censor the press, and more:
“If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.“
The gist of the quote is someone can always turn you into a criminal (or a suspected one) by reviewing content like Ring videos. This could also include email, text messages, and more.
In 2020 and 2021, we have seen many news stories twisted to present narratives and particular points of view. I suggest you keep as much of your personal content as private as you can. Manage the tech tools you use and be aware of the potential to be recorded by your neighbors’ Ring doorbells. Who knows what Sidewalk is doing? I hope Amazon invites independent organizations in to audit and publish their findings and continues to share information about these products.