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Ring Doorbells Send Cops Data Without User Consent

July 25, 2022

This week, one of the most egregious pieces of news I kept up with was the stories about Amazon, the manufacturer of the Ring Doorbell products - and they are proving once again that they don't give one single fuck about your privacy.

What did they do this time?, you might be asking yourself. Well, this time, the privacy invasion involved sending Ring Doorbell footage from all kinds of users to police departments, all without the permission from the owners of the aforementioned doorbells.

This is a terrible invasion of user privacy - you thought your doorbell served only you when you bought it, right? Why wouldn't it, after all? Amazon pinky-promised that they'd protect your privacy and your data, right? Think again, because this is one company who has proven on multiple occasions that they simply don't care about anything but lining stakeholder coffers.

What if My Footage is Helping Prevent Crime? Isn't This Good?

While you might not mind your doorbell footage being used to aid the police, the issue at hand here is that nothing was said to the owners of the doorbells before their data was exfiltrated and sent to the cops - all without user consent.

I hope I don't have to explain too much why this is bad. Normally, if cops want to get something from someone, they have top ask the person directly or obtain a warrant in order to obtain the data legally if the original owner of the data doesn't want to share it.

In this case, Amazon sent everything on over, all without a single notice to the users or a request for their permission before doing so. If this story would have went down the opposite way, then we would not be having this conversation right now. While the Ring Doorbell and all of its related software (just like everything else from Amazon) is closed source, so it can't be trusted by default - but regardless, a simple permission request to obtain the user data would have been miles better than simply taking it and giving it to the cops without asking.

Fuck Amazon

In light of these revelations and the number of other privacy violations that Amazon has exhibited in the last few years, I'm saying *Fuck Amazon!* I'm not going to shop through them again, and I invite you to join me. While myself and a few other privacy-concious folks boycotting Amazon probably won't hurt the corporation's bottom line too much, it still doing your part.

Vote with your wallet, and shop on an online storefront that doesn't engage in these horrific violations of privacy (and that hopefully treat their workers better than Amazon does). Even if nobody else boycotts this terrible company in light of these revelations, I can at least know I am doing my part and not giving them my money.

If you're looking for used electronics and are used to shopping on Amazon for those purchases, I can highly recommend Back Market, a site that specializes in refurbished electronics. I have bought several laptops and cell phones on this shop and they are the real deal. Look around enough, and you can find alternatives for anything else you might normally buy on Amazon from more ethical companies.

Just as Google did with search, Amazon is now the default shopping center of the internet. It doesn't have to be this way, however - you can do your part to punish megacorporations like this, who don't give a shit about you, your privacy, or their own employees. All they care about is their bottom line and how much money they can extract from the public, hoping all the while that the public will ignore the headlines they see about Amazon and companies like them all the while.

Chuck your Ring Doorbell to the bin, if you have one, and look into free and open-source alternatives from ethical companies (The PineCube from Pine64 is an excellent, afforable little IP cam). You can have the convenience of the camera, all while knowing that it isn't sneaking around behind your back and sending your data to the cops without your consent.