Recently, Ring has announced that they will be changing the way users log into their accounts. This update aims to make Ring’s devices more secure. After this change, users will have to set up a second layer of security by adding a one-time six-digit code that’s sent by SMS or email. This code will be prompted when they try to log in to check the sate of their outdoor and indoor cameras. Additionally, Ring aims to improve user privacy by providing the option for users to control when their data is being shared with other companies.
These Privacy Concerns Are Old News for Ring
For those who have been following Ring recently, this isn’t a big surprise. Ring has been under some flak as it had to dodge privacy and security scandals. For instance, last December, critics have said that Ring’s security isn’t up to par. They pointed out the fact that Ring doesn’t notify users whenever a new browser or device logs into their account. Additionally, two-factor authentication is not turned on by default. For a company that aims to secure people’s homes, this kind of oversight is devastating to its image. What this means is that if someone gets ahold of a Ring user’s password, they can use it to spy on the victim’s house without the victim being the wiser.
With the new changes, users will no longer face the risk of being spied on without them being warned. Now, the user is required to set up two security layers in order to secure their account, and the new six-digit code is a welcome change. Even though these changes might seem like a band-aid fix, they’re definitely a big step in the right direction for Ring.
As for user privacy, Ring’s new change regarding sharing data with other companies is a welcome one. Having control of where and who your data goes to will definitely make a lot of people happy. Additionally, Ring will be pausing data sharing with third-party analytics services that use data to make personalized ads for each user. With that said, there has been a report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation last month which found that Ring’s Android app had numerous third-party trackers which sent out personally identifiable information to marketing and analytics companies.
Ring Has Left a Lot to Be Desired When It Comes to Privacy
Even though these privacy changes are great, there’s still a long way to go for Ring in order to establish a transparent relationship with consumers. The main issue here is that Ring has been making partnerships with law enforcement agencies. Given how dense Ring’s surveillance networks are, law enforcement agencies are trying to get their hands on that data.
In order for Ring to establish a trustworthy and clear image, here’s what they need to do.
First of all, Ring should stop partnering with law enforcement agencies.
Giving the authorities the ability to see private footage poses a grave threat to privacy. It also goes against Ring’s recent privacy reforms. Additionally, giving the police complete access to Ring consumers’ footage can create an unhealthy atmosphere full of paranoia and mistrust between the authorities and citizens. There’s also the fact that this can even go against the exercise of activities that are protected by the First Amendment. Finally, giving the authorities so much visibility and power could even put democratic values at stake.
Second, Ring should start thinking about implementing privacy measures that give its users control of their footage.
A possible implementation would be by requiring warrants to be directly issued to consumers so that law enforcement can gain access to footage. What this means is that the police wouldn’t be able to view someone’s footage unless they get their consent and an official document which can go a long way to strengthening consumer loyalty. Ring should implement a company-wide policy that mandates that users be informed when their footage is being requested by law enforcement agencies.
Third, regarding law enforcement agencies and privacy.
Once a law enforcement agency has gained the Ring user’s consent to be viewed, their access should be limited. This means that they shouldn’t be allowed to share their footage with any other company under any circumstance unless they get the user’s approval.
Forth, Ring should also start taking the privacy of other communities’ members into account.
In order to maintain an upstanding reputation, Ring has to protect the privacy of its users as well as everyone else who is supposedly recorded by their devices. A good place to start implementing this change is by changing the Ring default settings and disabling audio recording when the device is activated by motion. This could greatly limit the number of private conversations that don’t pertain to the user’s home security being recorded. This also prevents the problematic situation where random conversation from being recorded where the people being recorded can’t even see the camera.
Fifth, Ring should never integrate any form of facial recognition software into its cameras.
Implementing facial recognition would be by far one of the most problematic things it could do as it would infringe on people’s privacy. This would also mean that every person that would be recorded by Ring’s cameras would have their face scanned and saved on a database without their consent which could lead to so many privacy issues down the road. For instance, law enforcement could use that data to track down people’s whereabouts and even spy on them in some cases.
Final Thoughts Regarding Ring and Privacy
All in all, Ring is still not in the clear. Being one of the leading companies in home security and surveillance, they’re always treading a thin line where they have to balance privacy and security. In order to maintain a good public image, Ring has to implement numerous technical reforms that aim to improve security, and most importantly, the privacy of its users and other people.