Privacy concerns around Amazon’s Ring

“A home security product upscaled and diversified into law enforcement and integrated with facial recognition software brings with it some serious privacy concerns.”

What is the Ring?

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The Ring is Amazon’s bestselling smart security device product line. The most notable of which is the Ring doorbell which allows users to monitor movement by their front doors, video and receive mobile notifications whenever someone presses the doorbell. Users can also benefit from an App which is installed on their mobile, monitors local news and allows social media style sharing with other Ring users.

Ring additionally offers security services, cross-selling into the wider security service market.

Ring and law enforcement  

Recent controversy was sparked when it was found that the Ring in partnering with over 400 police departments in the United States. The extent of the Ring’s collaborative efforts extend to targeting ad words to users encouraging that they share live video feed footage with law enforcement. This in and of itself is a significant extension in police surveillance meriting further legislative scrutiny.

However, pair this with the fact that the Ring may integrate and encourage the use of the Amazon’s Rekognition facial recognition software product and the companies dubbing of the service as “the new neighborhood watch”- it becomes all the more disconcerting.

It is well-established that people’s likeness is considered personal data and that the recording of individuals without their consent is potentially invasive. There are also civil liberties concerns regarding the police acquiring these live video feeds for their own use.

This has drawn the attention of the Senator for Massachusetts, Edward Markey, who recently published a letter sent to Amazons CEO Jeffery Bezos, highlighting civil liberties concerns with the Ring. This highlights issues previously raised in the United Kingdom in relation to the use of facial recognition software; its potential to racially profile individuals. Whilst this was considered by the Administrative Court to be too an intangible argument lacking sufficient supporting data, further scrutiny would be most welcome.

And it looks like further scrutiny seems forthcoming. In his letter Senator Markey highlights 10 key concerns around the Ring system, demanding a response from the Amazon CEO by 26 September 2019. We highly recommend readers consider the letter in its entirety here.

The privacy implications of using facial recognition software

The use of facial recognition software (“FRS”) in security and monitoring was thrust into the spotlight by the London Mayor Sadiq Khan, taking issue with a London developer over its installation in a King’s Cross site. In this post on the Privacy Perspective we consider the privacy and data protection issues with integrating FRS into security systems, an issue currently before the courts. Continue reading

Big brother is watching you, in compliance with the European Convention of Human Rights

Revisiting the case of Big Brother Watch and Others v. the United Kingdom

The operation of the UK’s surveillance services, MI5, MI6, GCHQ and the Metropolitan Police Service and their interaction with human rights (“Convention rights”) have historically been obscure to safeguard the interests of national security. The specifics of policy and practices when conducting national surveillance and its interaction with the private lives citizens have only come to light since the whistleblowing of Edward Snowden in 2013, catalyzing closer scrutiny of their potential to impinge upon the democratic freedoms.

Continue reading