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This article was published on January 28, 2020

Amazon Engineer: ‘Ring should be shut down immediately and not brought back’

Amazon Engineer: ‘Ring should be shut down immediately and not brought back’

An Amazon software engineer named Max Eliaser is calling for the shutdown of Ring, the doorbell camera company Amazon paid $2 billion for in 2018.

Hundreds of Amazon employees recently banded together to form Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, an organization dedicated to holding the company’s feet to the fire when it comes to taking the steps necessary to face the global climate crisis. The group published a post on Medium yesterday sharing its members’ views on climate change, but Eliaser apparently felt the need to speak out on a different subject.

They wrote:

The deployment of connected home security cameras that allow footage to be queried centrally are simply not compatible with a free society. The privacy issues are not fixable with regulation and there is no balance that can be struck. Ring should be shut down immediately and not brought back.

Those are strong words, but he’s not alone in thinking them. A growing contingent of civil rights advocates, surveillance experts, and pundits are working to raise awareness about the potential dangers of Ring’s doorbell cameras.

Ring sold nearly 400,000 units in the month of December, according to estimates. That’s the company’s best month to date. Amazon won’t share sales data with the public, all it’s revealed is that “millions” of customers around the world have Ring surveillance cameras installed.

This indicates that privacy advocates are losing the battle against ubiquitous surveillance, something many feel could destroy the bedrock of democracy.

One of the biggest concerns with Ring cameras is that people who choose not to install one or participate in the local surveillance network (a connected community software system called “Neighborhoods” that gives police backdoor access to users’ footage) can’t choose to opt out.

If your neighbor has a Ring camera you can’t make them, Amazon, or the police exclude footage of you, your family, and your guests from their recordings. Any bad actor wishing to misuse or abuse the system – whether it’s an Amazon employee, police officer subverting your legal right to privacy, or a hacker seeking to cause you harm – only needs access to a camera nearby, even if you don’t own one.

These concerns, coupled with other red flags (Ring footage ends up on contractors’ servers in countries such as Ukraine, the Ring app is loaded with trackers, etc.), seem to indicate that Ring cameras are a threat to privacy at best and a danger to society and democracy at worst.

Read next: Ring’s Android app reportedly sends data to third-party trackers

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