Privacy Loss Has a New Ring: £100,000 Fine for Using Amazon Products?

Source: Ring Store. Amazon is literally promoting the very thing a judge just struck down as intent to violate privacy. Protecting the home legally failed to extend “around” a home.

Ring seems to be hurting the surveillance industry as well as privacy rights. This makes it a bizarre product that benefits very few while it spreads far more harm than good at scale (only really helps the people selling it, I suppose).

Start by looking into the whistleblower “Ring must die” story from just a few months ago:

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.

Then review things like the earlier completely broken and unsafe security model of Ring, leaving all the data exposed.

Software to hack Ring cameras has recently become popular on the forum. The software churns through previously compromised email addresses and passwords to break into Ring cameras at scale.

Finally, consider this emerging odd story about a woman being awarded a huge fine because her neighbor installed Ring cameras:

Judge Melissa Clarke dismissed Mr Woodard’s claim that the driveway camera was used legitimately. She ruled that ‘crime prevention, could surely be achieved by something less’ than the devices. Judge concluded images and audio of Dr Fairhurst’s property captured by devices was her personal data. Also ruled Mr Woodard had breached UK GDPR by failing to process her personal data ‘transparently’. He then ‘sought to mislead Claimant about how and whether the Cameras operated and what they captured’. Fine of up to £100,000 could be handed out by judge. But final sentencing decision will be made a later date.

Putting hefty fines on the people caught with a Ring is… an interesting approach to the problem of product safety.

Image: Alan Lee. A concerned neighbor (left) confronts a Ring user (right).

Will Amazon respond by selling a legal insurance policy along with their freedom-destroying invasive technology (and would any Gollum even accept such a policy)?

At first I didn’t believe this third story was real… then it went to the BBC.

…the judge added: “Even if an activation zone is disabled so that the camera does not activate to film by movement in that area, activation by movement in one of the other non-disabled activation zones will cause the camera to film across the whole field of view.”

On the positive side the latest push back mounts pressure on all retail surveillance camera vendors (looking at you Lorex, DLink, Swann, etc.) to up their game in competitive tests, proving to the market technically how they aren’t back-hauling data that leaves everyone exposed (end-to-end encrypted for local operators using public networks for privacy-preserving views) — to improve confidentiality.

The push back also begs the question of scoping tools, such that sensor technology can limit range and integrity of recordings, while still being obsessively compelled to do the exact opposite — increase range (and fidelity) — to improve integrity.

Reminds me of a homicide case I was pulled into after high resolution cameras on the outside of a building had captured details of a moving car hundreds of feet away. I had to testify the resolution was really that good that long ago (police had downloaded the footage soon after the incident, yet the case wasn’t heard until years later).

While obviously I’m not a lawyer there are some deep legal issues for a judge who generally indicates a camera shouldn’t be pointing at a neighbor or even around a neighborhood the camera owner lives in. That’s seriously grey space.

This case to me thus seems to rest more soundly on an “unfair” and “unsafe” operation principles, rather than on diminishing a right to install and operate sensors for the open spaces around one’s own home.

As a long-time surveillance camera installer and operator, including investigations and court work, I look at the Amazon Ring product as a disaster for all those involved. Without Amazon would such flagrant disregard for security (confidentiality and integrity failures) even survive in the market?

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