Big Brother Joins Big Tech

What Secrets are Hidden Behind Household Security Cameras?

Will Mahan, Scarlet Staff

Most people in the United States fear infringement into their personal lives. It’s the primary reason that the Amazon company has made millions of dollars through their Ring security cameras. Compatible with Amazon’s popular Alexa device,  Ring security cameras are intended to prevent home break-ins. Unfortunately, what was once believed to be protecting our privacy is, in fact, hijacking it. 

Several security breaches into Ring’s software have given hackers full access to people’s homes. One such example took place this past December when a hacker had spoken to a young eight-year-old girl through her parent’s Ring security camera. However, it isn’t just illegal activity, that should make Ring security camera owners nervous. Recently Amazon was forced to admit, they have secretly been giving Ukranian subcontractors secret access into Ring security video feed. It is a frightening realization for the millions of Americans with these cameras in their households that the most private parts of their lives may be watched by people they will never know. 

Another uncomfortable revelation has to do with Amazon’s partnership with four hundred U.S. police forces. Amazon has collaborated with police forces to create template scripts. These scripts are being used by law enforcement to persuade people into giving police access into their Ring security camera footage. The most frightening revelation from this is U.S. Law Enforcement does not need any kind of warrant to do this. In an email from Ring, Inc. to the Bloomfield Detective Bureau Commander, more insight was given regarding the thought process of Amazon. “The more users you have, the more useful information you can collect.” (Anonymous Ring Inc. Representative, Amazon).  In the scenario that an individual refuses to give police access to their surveillance feed, police can still directly ask RING Inc. for camera footage if the user declines. This would in turn force the person to attend court over the matter. “If we ask within 60 days of the recording and as long as it’s been uploaded to the cloud, then Ring can take it out of the cloud and send it to us legally so that we can use it as part of our investigation” (Fresco County, California Sheriff’s Office).

In addition to this partnership, multiple city councils have actually subsidized the costs of Ring security cameras. Several police departments are even distributing the cameras for free. In Arcadia, California Ring security cameras are actually being sold by the local city government, with the costs of these cameras being subsidized through taxpayer dollars. This means Amazon receives a free monetary reward, and the city’s law enforcement receives free access into people’s homes without needing search warrants. Arcadia’s city government even put out advertisements for the cameras, with captions such as “Help stop crime before it happens”. The most frightening revelation in all of this is that many Ring security camera owners are unknowingly participating in what Amazon calls “Beta Testing” for facial, vocal, and movement recognition systems. It is extremely unsettling that none of us have any grasp on what Amazon can or will do with all of this information. Ring security cameras are certainly a momentary concern, but what’s worse is the consolidation of power we are currently seeing within Amazon. If this single Amazon product is clouded in so much ethical dilemma, then what other Amazon products could hold similar faults? Whether our privacy is being sold to the government or foreign power, it should be a wake-up call to all Americans. Freedom is never truly free – it is earned. In order to preserve our freedom, we as Americans must confront private and public figureheads, for answers on morally questionable actions like these ones.