Lawmakers Want Amazon To Explain Ring’s Data Privacy Practices

Five senators wrote a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, asking him to explain how security surveillance company Ring uses peoples’ data and video, according to a report by CNBC.

Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Chris Coons of Delaware and Gary Peters of Michigan sent a letter Wednesday (Nov. 20). They asked whether the technology could be accessed by foreign entities, or whether the technology posed a risk to national security.

“Personal data can be exploited by foreign intelligence services to amplify the impact of espionage and influence operations,” the letter said.

Ring is a subsidiary of Amazon, which bought the company in February 2018. The company told CNBC that it’s reviewing the letter, but in a blog post it described how it works with authorities.

“Ring users place their trust in us to help protect their homes and communities, and we take that responsibility very seriously,” a spokesperson said. “Ring does not own or otherwise control users’ videos, and we intentionally designed the Neighbors Portal to ensure that users get to decide whether or not to voluntarily provide their videos to the police.”

In the letter, lawmakers talked about reports of people hacking the doorbells, and how the company left customers’ Wi-Fi passwords vulnerable. Although the weakness in security wasn’t revealed until recently, Amazon said it fixed the issue in September. There are also reports that Ukranian Ring workers had “virtually unfettered access” to Ring cameras with “little more than a click.”

“These reports raise serious concerns about Ring’s internal cybersecurity and privacy safeguards, particularly if employees and contractors in foreign countries have access to American consumers’ data,” the senators wrote.

Markey recently released findings into the company.

“Amazon Ring’s policies are an open door for privacy and civil liberty violations,” Markey said. “If you’re an adult walking your dog or a child playing on the sidewalk, you shouldn’t have to worry that Ring’s products are amassing footage of you and that law enforcement may hold that footage indefinitely or share that footage with any third parties. Amazon’s Ring is marketed to help keep families safe, but privacy rights are in real danger as a result of company policies. Amazon is not doing enough to ensure that its products and practices do not run afoul of our civil liberties.”

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