Ding-Dong! Police Calling!
August 28, 2019 10:18 AM   Subscribe

Doorbell-camera firm Ring [*] has partnered with 400 police forces, extending surveillance reach – The doorbell-camera company Ring has quietly forged video-sharing partnerships with more than 400 police forces across the United States, granting them access to homeowners’ camera footage and a powerful role in what the company calls the nation’s “new neighborhood watch.” Washington Post, Drew Harrell, August 28, 2019. [*Owned by Amazon (founded by Jeff Bezos and also owner of WaPo)]
posted by cenoxo (123 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is my surprised face. 😲
posted by jacquilynne at 10:22 AM on August 28, 2019 [11 favorites]


Haha, remember when we joked about how Alexa was a police bug. Haha, remember that funny joke. Remember when the stasi was the ultimate symbol of scary totalitarianism?
posted by Reyturner at 10:22 AM on August 28, 2019 [54 favorites]


From the article, this part is worth noting:
“The partnerships let police automatically request the video recorded by homeowners’ cameras within a specific time and area, helping officers see footage from the company’s millions of Internet-connected cameras installed nationwide, the company said. Officers don’t receive ongoing or live-video access, and homeowners can decline the requests, which Ring sends via email thanking them for “making your neighborhood a safer place.””
That being said, even if it is a request, I have ZERO trust that this isn't being abused in some way to give more power/access to the police so that they can target vulnerable communities/minorities/anyone they dislike.

We really need a comprehensive data/privacy regulations. And it needs to be run by citizens who are not tied to major corporations or the government. And we need it yesterday.
posted by Fizz at 10:27 AM on August 28, 2019 [43 favorites]


This is my surprised face.

The system already knew - it has face recognition
posted by DreamerFi at 10:36 AM on August 28, 2019 [112 favorites]


The request part of the program is what gives me the most pause. If I decline to cooperate with the police, do I need to worry about being otherwise targeted?

If my neighbor's house or car gets burgled, I'm going to see if my street-facing camera* caught anything. I'll happily offer that to the neighbor or police in interests of catching the people doing the burgling. It'd be nice if more widespread presence of video cameras deters break-ins and stuff like people stealing packages off doorsteps, which does happen around here.

But I do see potential for abuse and targeting people, and wouldn't want to join a system where the requests are automatic and lead to being tagged as non-cooperative. It also doesn't say what information is passed to the user other than a police request. I'm unlikely to cooperate with any such request if I don't know what motivated it.

*Not a Ring camera.
posted by jzb at 10:36 AM on August 28, 2019 [6 favorites]


Holy M-F-ing Jeebus! Opt-out surveillance. This is so Nope I can't even.
posted by theora55 at 10:38 AM on August 28, 2019 [8 favorites]




A few months ago our neighborhood got a rash of solicitors, doing a pretty tragic scam thing I'd encountered before. We get a lot of packages also, and I work from home, so I'm always going to answer the doorbell. Well, when I rejected the first scammer I got crocodile tears. The second one was a stoic sigh. The third? Racist epithets, screaming in the streets... I'm a small female looking person, I was legitimately scared that this dude might do harm to me, my yard, or some of the nice families with children and dogs walking outside. Because I'd answered the door, cut off his schpiel and told him no.

After that I thought long and hard about buying and installing one of these Ring things, specifically to avoid repeats of that but to catch packages. I avoid the internet of things as much as I can, no Alexa will ever be allowed in my house, etc. But this seemed like the perfect device for the job... except, then I thought about the exact thing that this post is about, and I thought, no fucking way. I'll be brave about potential future frustrated grifters, if it means I'm not aiding and abetting fascism via technology.
posted by Mizu at 10:41 AM on August 28, 2019 [19 favorites]


Mizu, there is probably a local security store near by where you can get a CCTV set up of some kind. Something not reliant on the web. The shitty thing is that in an ideal world you'd want that kind of convenience where you can look at your phone and see who is at the front door (while you're in traffic or at work), but if having the cops/government have access to my feed is the trade-off. Fuck that.
posted by Fizz at 10:46 AM on August 28, 2019 [11 favorites]


Anyone who puts a Ring on their door or an Alexa (or similar listening device) in their house is crazy. I just can't fathom how anyone thinks the minor conveniences they provide are worth giving up a (some of) your privacy for.
posted by Patapsco Mike at 10:48 AM on August 28, 2019 [22 favorites]


Man my eyebrows are so far up my forehead I have a new hairline. Take that face scan!

(Actually i know it still works because iPhone X recognizes me in an alarming variation of sunglasses, hair styles, color, and lighting.).
posted by sio42 at 10:48 AM on August 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


*begins researching dazzle camo face-paint patterns to wear every time I leave the house*
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:53 AM on August 28, 2019 [10 favorites]


Nobody seems to read the article. "Officers don’t receive ongoing or live-video access, and homeowners can decline the requests, which Ring sends via email thanking them for “making your neighborhood a safer place.” ".


I have a Ring doorbell and have absolutely no problem with this. There is no access to my data without my consent.
posted by w0mbat at 10:54 AM on August 28, 2019 [11 favorites]


That you know of.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:03 AM on August 28, 2019 [107 favorites]


I have a Ring doorbell and have absolutely no problem with this. There is no access to my data without my consent.

w0mbat, 10 years ago I'd likely put my trust in a company respecting my privacy/data. I have no such trust in 2019.
posted by Fizz at 11:03 AM on August 28, 2019 [49 favorites]


I got an Alexa a year or so ago as a present and I thought it was sort of cool, then I went into the recordings and heard a lot of things we hadn't specifically asked Alexa for, and decided we didn't need anything that was listening or watching us in the house that we knew of.
posted by xingcat at 11:04 AM on August 28, 2019 [13 favorites]


"I have a Ring doorbell and have absolutely no problem with this. There is no access to my data without my consent." That's what everyone thought when it came to Facebook. And phone calls. And text messages. And the cameras on computers. Etc etc. I mean, Ring is already working directly with police departments on messaging to help them gain access to more data. It's not much of a leap to think your data aren't going to stay yours alone for very long. It will start with "we'll only use it during Amber Alerts" and it will go downhill from there.
posted by Patapsco Mike at 11:06 AM on August 28, 2019 [36 favorites]


*begins researching dazzle camo face-paint patterns to wear every time I leave the house*

TheWhiteSkull, let me introduce you to your new favorite band.
posted by dr. boludo at 11:08 AM on August 28, 2019 [5 favorites]


One of the few times I decided to try Siri was when I was driving to upstate NY from Boston, and needed to be hands free.

Me: Red Sox radio stations.
Siri: Ok, I'll play Alasdair Fraser for you.
posted by Melismata at 11:08 AM on August 28, 2019 [5 favorites]


One of the many things that makes me uncomfortable with this is that there’s really no way to get consent from everyone who might approach the door. To me it’s just rude to be taping people (even in a semi-public place like my doorstep) without explicit consent. It violates the golden rule for me, even if it’s perfectly legal. I have similar issues with putting cameras inside my home, even if I did it so I could watch my dog while I was away or something like that. Would I remember to warn anyone who entered my home that they might be on camera? Nope. I just don’t want to conduct my life that way.
posted by sallybrown at 11:09 AM on August 28, 2019 [17 favorites]


Nobody seems to read the article.

I don't think you're correct on this point. People have RTFA, and they don't like the implications nor trust the police / Amazon / Ring not to abuse the service.

Like I said, I'm not real comfortable about putting myself in a position to get this request from police and then having to say no or not knowing what specifically it's going to be used for.
posted by jzb at 11:09 AM on August 28, 2019 [35 favorites]


I have a Ring doorbell and have absolutely no problem with this. There is no access to my data without my consent.

and you believe the police would never lie to you to get your consent?
posted by Dashy at 11:09 AM on August 28, 2019 [38 favorites]


I have a Ring doorbell and have absolutely no problem with this. There is no access to my data without my consent.

Everything that happens outside your front door is not your data.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:16 AM on August 28, 2019 [46 favorites]


To me it’s just rude to be taping people (even in a semi-public place like my doorstep) without explicit consent.

Once I step outside my house I assume I can and will be recorded anywhere. If you approach my house and aren't invited, you're well off the public throughway and should expect to be on camera.

I also have internal webcams for monitoring my cats when I'm away. I do notify anybody who's going to be inside my home about the cameras. I made sure for example to give notice to my pet sitter when I bought them, so there would be no surprises.

To each their own, but it's 2019 - you're being recorded. Phone cameras, traffic cameras, dashcams, and all of that. In general I'm OK with this - you have no expectation of privacy in public spaces. But there's a difference between "there's maybe/probably video" and "the state can easily tap into video feeds and recordings at a whim."
posted by jzb at 11:16 AM on August 28, 2019 [7 favorites]


In our house we have virtually no "smart" items. Some friends have commented that me and my wife seem very up to date, even almost cutting-edge on tech, and wondered why we don't have anything aside from our phones and a couple cameras that are IP-only on our local network with only local storage, no Cloud access, and strictly face outward from the house.

It's because we're up to date and understand the technology that we avoid these things.
posted by tclark at 11:17 AM on August 28, 2019 [25 favorites]


Film the cops, not the neighbors.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:20 AM on August 28, 2019 [41 favorites]


George Zimmerman thought he was the "new neighborhood watch" when he killed Trayvon Martin, too...
posted by CyberSlug Labs at 11:33 AM on August 28, 2019 [5 favorites]


Anyone who puts a Ring on their door or an Alexa (or similar listening device) in their house is crazy.

Sure, but the deeper problem is that smartphones are no different, and those have become very difficult to live without.

I have a fair bit of "smart home" stuff in my house and some devices have Alexa support. I refuse to use Alexa, but like others I have little faith that amazon doesn't snoop. I'm using the google home app currently, but I also recently whipped up a hass.io raspberry pi server, so once I get that figured out google will be gone.
posted by MillMan at 11:36 AM on August 28, 2019 [10 favorites]


I have a Ring doorbell and have absolutely no problem with this. There is no access to my data without my consent.

Assuming Ring (or Amazon/Google for that matter) isn't operating under some National Security Letter or other constitutional dodge to fight "terrorists". I have severe doubts about their ability to secure this data against malicious hackers. It'll be fun the first time it's revealed their storage has been available on the black market for six months.

It flattens me that people intentionally install (pay for even!) remote accessible, always on, intentional surveillance devices in their homes that were a central plot point of 1984.
posted by Mitheral at 12:14 PM on August 28, 2019 [15 favorites]


I keep sharing this Brian K. Vaughan web comic because it's so damn apposite to this moment in history: "The Private Eye," Vaughan, Martin, Vicente: http://panelsyndicate.com/comics/tpeye
posted by elkevelvet at 12:14 PM on August 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


The problem is that if you don't consent when the police ask, you will become an object of suspicion, and will potentially find yourself and your house under surveillance, and I wouldn't be surprised if refusing consent became a factor in obtaining search warrants for your house or car.
posted by jamjam at 12:23 PM on August 28, 2019 [9 favorites]


Everything that happens outside your front door is not your data.

It's in public, there is no expectation of privacy, my device recorded it while sitting on my property, it's my data.
posted by w0mbat at 12:28 PM on August 28, 2019 [5 favorites]


you will become an object of suspicion, and will potentially find yourself and your house under surveillance

So basically the mostly upper middle class whites who can afford and find a Ring doorbell useful will get the same treatment from the police that practically everyone but them gets?
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:29 PM on August 28, 2019 [9 favorites]


I have a Ring doorbell and have absolutely no problem with this. There is no access to my data without my consent.

It appears the Terms of Service ultimately allow Amazon to give the data to law enforcement without your permission, and possibly without your knowledge. See this comment on Ars Technica for quotes and links.
posted by D.C. at 12:31 PM on August 28, 2019 [24 favorites]


It appears the Terms of Service ultimately allow Amazon to give the data to law enforcement without your permission, and possibly without your knowledge. See this comment on Ars Technica for quotes and links.

Yes of course legally via subpoena compliance with various federal and local agencies. That's what a subpoena is. There is nothing in that paragraph which states they'll give it without subpoena (which is not to say they wouldn't).
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:40 PM on August 28, 2019


This is why we have a V-Tech. It takes crappy, indecipherable and almost always spooky photos, but allows us to talk to whoever is at the front door and also (well, mostly) doubles as an in-home intercom system. Nothing gets sent to the cloud.

Plus it is Tony Stark's home phone of choice!
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:49 PM on August 28, 2019 [2 favorites]


I have severe doubts about their ability to secure this data against malicious hackers.

Google and Amazon are about the only two companies that can withstand a nation-state level hacking attempt. Nothing is perfect, but they've done pretty good so far.

I have a Ring doorbell and have absolutely no problem with this. There is no access to my data without my consent.

I was reading someone online complain today that their doorbell cam got footage of an actual crime and they had to go to court several times to testify it really was their footage. So even if you hand over footage willingly, you may regret it serval courtroom visits later. No defence lawyer in the world is just going to let rando video footage go unchallenged in court.

Everything that happens outside your front door is not your data.

Nest recently made a change to permanently enable the recording indicator light on their cameras - you used to be able to turn it off via the app. This was done to give people being recorded clearer indication that recording was happening. And per the article, a lot of camera owners threw a fit. The only thing people hate more than being recorded without their knowledge is being prevented from recording people without their knowledge.
posted by GuyZero at 12:55 PM on August 28, 2019 [13 favorites]


I work for an EU company that had to make its software able to be used in a GDPR complaint manner.

I’d be really interested to know how GDPR experts would view who the owner of the data is in this case and who is the processor. There’s also a bit about data which is about you that you must give your consent to have collected and can demand at any time.

There’s a California privacy act that is going into effect that’s very similar to GDPR. This system would have to comply that for any data collection and use of the data if the system is being used in CA.

I have literally no other info or thoughts on this , am just very curious at these laws and how they play out.
posted by sio42 at 12:58 PM on August 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


This is so gross and scary and will bolden the line between who is on the side of the police and who is not. This will be used by white people to protect themselves and their property. They will clamor to offer access to their device to track those people that don't belong in this area. This will only harm people are already being harmed by the greater police apparatus. This will only increase the intended efficacy of the police state.

my device recorded it while sitting on my property, it's my data.

The zoom function on my new Ring can see right into the neighbors house across the street! It's my data!
posted by avalonian at 1:07 PM on August 28, 2019 [20 favorites]


I have a Ring doorbell and have absolutely no problem with this. There is no access to my data without my consent.

Ring's terms of service only require a court order for them to hand out your deleted footage. Subpoenas have a workaround: going to Amazon to have them copy off of the servers that Ring uses. Ring themselves says that they require a "valid and binding legal demand," which sounds like it could be as little as a phone call.

From the TOS, this is the language that appears to apply to users who have not opted into public sharing (where Ring can do whatever they want):

In addition to the rights granted above, you also acknowledge and agree that Ring may access, use, preserve and/or disclose your User Recordings and Shared Content to law enforcement authorities, government officials, and/or third parties, if legally required to do so or if we have a good faith belief that such access, use, preservation or disclosure is reasonably necessary to:

(a) comply with applicable law, regulation, legal process or reasonable governmental request; (b) enforce these Terms, including investigation of any potential violation thereof; (c) detect, prevent or otherwise address security, fraud or technical issues; or (d) protect the rights, property or safety of Ring, its users, a third party, or the public as required or permitted by law.


[emphasis mine] The bolded parts basically allow Ring to do anything they want as long as they can come up with a plausible reason.

Additionally, the police aren't allowed to use the word "surveillance" to describe the functionality when talking to users and potential users.
posted by rhizome at 1:15 PM on August 28, 2019 [10 favorites]


So it would appear from the policy that under (1) private parties that secure court orders will get the ring video (and I'm done calling it your video because that's just disingenuous given what comes next).

(2) announces that requests from government sources (of any stripe!) will be complied with. Not subpoenas, just a nicely worded letter or phone call.

(3) seems ominous but I don't know what it's setting up.

(4) very specifically doesn't mention whose "other harm" or financial harm.

And finally (5) seems to indicate that they will narc on you and won't wait for a government request if they see fit.

This is not your data, it has never been your data, and it will be used against you outside of a court of law.
posted by Slackermagee at 1:16 PM on August 28, 2019 [6 favorites]


The words "consent" and "permission" only appear in the TOS in relation to restrictions or responsibilities of the user (it's legal to use where you live, you won't use someone else's footage, etc.).
posted by rhizome at 1:19 PM on August 28, 2019


My neighbor was robbed at gunpoint this morning. This happened on a busy street, on the route I follow taking my kid to school. I found out via a post on the local Nextdoor group, which linked to this /r/Oakland post.

Scrolling down I see this comment from another neighbor, "That’s really too bad. I was mugged at gun point in that area and the police were able to use my report (plus a few Ring cams) to bust the guys.".

I rest my case.
posted by w0mbat at 1:19 PM on August 28, 2019 [3 favorites]


Rest what case? No one here is arguing that such surveillance doesn't work. They're arguing that you can't control it, and to think otherwise is foolish.
posted by Automocar at 1:27 PM on August 28, 2019 [40 favorites]


Yeah, it's great to catch muggers, but when your car gets towed because of an unpaid parking ticket combined with license plate readers on home security cameras auto-reporting to the police then you may find it's gone a bit too far except, whoops, there's no going back.
posted by GuyZero at 1:35 PM on August 28, 2019 [10 favorites]


Anyone who puts a Ring on their door or an Alexa (or similar listening device) in their house is crazy.

Do you have a cellphone? Do you think its microphone is turned off?
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 1:37 PM on August 28, 2019 [7 favorites]


Something not reliant on the web.

The thing is, if there were a standardized protocol for IoT devices that everything followed and they all centralized to and through a commodity device that sat in your house, that device would cost about as much as a wi-fi router. It fact, it would probably be the wi-fi router. And it would give you virtually everything* the web-based services offer you now without the privacy issues.

But that wouldn't give any of the IoT vendors a monopoly, so we can't have that.

(*Fine, except for the check-it-while-you're-out thing. But that can be done with an add-on service.)
posted by suetanvil at 1:44 PM on August 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


Also, I wonder how many people on nextdoor read the mugger story and then promptly pissed themselves because footage of their affair is obtainable (and accidentally so if it coincides with a crime across the way!).
posted by Slackermagee at 1:45 PM on August 28, 2019 [4 favorites]


Do you have a cellphone? Do you think its microphone is turned off?

I'm just gonna leave this here.
posted by avalonian at 1:49 PM on August 28, 2019 [3 favorites]


So, we just moved into a house with Ring doorbells. And let me tell you something! They're pretty neat! I was a few blocks away from the house when somebody needed to drop something off, and I was able to verbally respond and tell the delivery person to leave the package on the doorstep because I'd be there in a few minutes. You can also add additional ringers anywhere in your home where there's an electrical socket. Super handy!

Also, they are supported by a web of software explicitly designed to make you paranoid, distrustful, and maybe just a bit more racist. Yay!

Whenever someone sees something "suspicious" on their Ring, they flag it. And then that little video clip pops up on a map at the top of the app. Yep! The first thing you see when you open the app is all the events that your neighbors have flagged. Is that one dude down the street going to flag it every time someone not white looks at their house? You know it, buddy!

Wait, can I get an autogenerated "crime report" for my neighborhood? Can we do that weekly? And can we put up a notification on your phone by default that your weekly crime report is ready? It's in there!

So yeah. It's a potentially really nice, useful bit of technology, but unfortunately it's being marketed by or to fascist nutsacks. I'm looking for an alternative.
posted by phooky at 1:50 PM on August 28, 2019 [46 favorites]


Ring? Does this mean that that creepy contortionist witch is going to pop out of my doorbell and attack me?
Oh, wait. It's worse.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 1:53 PM on August 28, 2019 [9 favorites]


I have a Ring doorbell and have absolutely no problem with this. There is no access to my data without my consent.

Perhaps you won’t be asked. From the WaPo article:
Ring users consent to the company giving recorded video to “law enforcement authorities, government officials and/or third parties” if the company thinks it’s necessary to comply with “legal process or reasonable government request,” its terms of service state. The company says it can also store footage deleted by the user to comply with legal obligations.

The high-resolution cameras can provide detailed images of not just a front doorstep but also neighboring homes across the street and down the block. Ring users have further expanded their home monitoring by installing the motion-detecting cameras along driveways, decks and rooftops.

Some officers said they now look for Ring doorbells, notable for their glowing circular buttons, when investigating crimes or canvassing neighborhoods, in case they need to pursue legal maneuvers later to obtain the video.
Another privacy clause in Ring’s TOS states:
Privacy and other laws applicable in your jurisdiction may impose certain responsibilities on you and your use of the Products and Services. You agree that it is your responsibility, and not the responsibility of Ring, to ensure that you comply with any applicable laws when you use the Products and Services, including but not limited to:

(1) any laws or regulations relating to the recording or sharing of video or audio content, and/or (2) any laws or regulations requiring that notice be given to or that consent be obtained from third parties with respect to your use of the Products or Services.

In addition, you agree (a) that installation of any Product which takes visual and/or audio recordings will be installed at such an angle that it does not take any recordings beyond the boundary of your property (including public pavements or roads); (b) to prominently display appropriate signage advising others that audio/visual recording is taking place; and (c) if you use your property as a workplace, to comply with laws governing the monitoring of employees.

If your use of the Services or any Products is prohibited by applicable laws, then you aren’t authorized to use the Services. We can’t and won’t be responsible for your using the Services or any Products in a way that breaks the law.
Now, while I’m sure that 100% of all home/business owners will fully comply with the above terms, would non-compliance mean that audio/video evidence captured by Ring cameras is unauthorized by Ring (and thus inadmissible)?

Given the home/lot/street layout in an average suburban neighborhood, installing a camera “...at such an angle that it does not take any recordings beyond the boundary of your property (including public pavements or roads)” would be practically impossible.

FYI, here’s a direct link to an enlarged Google map of “Active law enforcement agencies on the Neighbors app. Last updated 8/27/19.” You can zoom in and click any starred location to identify the law enforcement agency.
posted by cenoxo at 1:56 PM on August 28, 2019 [4 favorites]


There’s a California privacy act that is going into effect that’s very similar to GDPR.

Yes, and about a half-dozen other US states. It's being analyzed right now, but generally you can't delete information that would be pertinent to billing, but after that, it's kind of 'who knows?'. Generally companies have a few months to build out the infrastructure required to review the data they are maintaining by customer account and then a few more to give customers access to review and manage that data.
posted by The_Vegetables at 2:04 PM on August 28, 2019


In our house we have virtually no "smart" items. Some friends have commented that me and my wife seem very up to date, even almost cutting-edge on tech, and wondered why we don't have anything aside from our phones

that's cool and all, but a modern smartphone is just a Nest that leaves the house with you.
posted by Sauce Trough at 2:28 PM on August 28, 2019 [6 favorites]


that's cool and all, but a modern smartphone is just a Nest that leaves the house with you.

People keep saying this as though it's an argument for putting more devices with more capabilities in your house. It's...not.
posted by praemunire at 2:31 PM on August 28, 2019 [34 favorites]


"but when your car gets towed because of an unpaid parking ticket combined with license plate readers on home security cameras auto-reporting to the police then you may find it's gone a bit too far except,
Wait, what? Does the law provide that the police can tow your vehicle if it has unpaid tickets on it? Is that law unjust? Can't they currently two your car? I mean it would be pretty easy to make a paper list of license plates that are in violation and just use their eyes? Who am I supposed to be morally outraged at if they do that?
Why does your shoe on the other foot example have me suffering for violating the law? Should I be exempt from the law?
posted by MrBobaFett at 2:46 PM on August 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


I mean it would be pretty easy to make a paper list of license plates that are in violation and just use their eyes? Who am I supposed to be morally outraged at if they do that?
I mean, there's a pretty long list of Supreme Court rulings as precedent for the base idea that "what happens at human scales can easily become unconstitutional at automatic scales".
Sure you could have a police officer follow someone, but that doesn't make attaching a GPS device to their car legit. And that really doesn't make tracking everybody in an area via GPS legit, just because you could do it.

Similar precedent is building around license plate readers. One cop could write down every license plate in a gardening store on pretenses of busting weed farms (and later send in SWAT teams because they found spent tea leaves in their trash), but that's fundamentally different at scale from connecting to your friendly interstate parking company's Automated License Plate Reader database to track where everybody on the West Coast parks.

Scale can be a rights violation of its own, and just because I can buy a cheap thermal sensor for my phone shouldn't mean the police don't need a warrant to scan my home looking for suspicious heat signatures anymore because the tech is that easily distributed.
posted by CrystalDave at 3:00 PM on August 28, 2019 [17 favorites]


Some officers said they now look for Ring doorbells, notable for their glowing circular buttons, when investigating crimes or canvassing neighborhoods, in case they need to pursue legal maneuvers later to obtain the video.

Ah shit. Might as well put a thin blue line across the thing as well.
posted by avalonian at 3:02 PM on August 28, 2019 [8 favorites]


Anyone who puts a Ring on their door or an Alexa (or similar listening device) in their house is crazy. I just can't fathom how anyone thinks the minor conveniences they provide are worth giving up a (some of) your privacy for.

I very nearly walked down to southern Ohio to beat the ever-loving snot out of my SIL for buying one of those goddamned Portal with Alexa gadgets for my 90+ year-old MIL and FIL. "Oh, video calling, so easy!" It has been nothing but a nightmare, because if FIL gets frustrated with it (and he does), he'll disconnect it and then SIL will call him in the traditional way and fuss at him, then he gets upset and reconnects it and the cycle repeats. He hates the intrusion, Alexa pipes up and talks it even THINKS it hears its name, which upsets him and aggravates his Meniere's Disease, which causes a host of other problems, and it just cascades.

I told him to throw the goddamned thing out. Since I live 3 blocks from FIL, I handle all the tech support for him, and I have told the rest of the family to stop buying this shit for him. They argue, even though none of them live nearby and none of them work in tech. (I do. But what do I know about gadgets and how they affect my FILs quality of life?)

And then there is Ring. One of the other SILs wanted to buy one for the MIL and FIL, and my foot went RIGHT down. Oh, hell no. They don't need it. They don't need the FEAR these things create! Our neighborhood FB group is crammed with posts from people who are glued to their Ring all day. They share videos and get incredibly upset about people just walking up and down the street. "Does anyone recognize this guy? HE LOOKED AT MY HOUSE!" I wish I were exaggerating. I am not.
posted by MissySedai at 3:04 PM on August 28, 2019 [40 favorites]


i'm blown away that sentient adults in 2019 honestly believe that they can opt out of any kind of corporate/state data collection or surveillance. "oh but it would be illegal to do it without our consent!" lol. l o l
posted by poffin boffin at 3:12 PM on August 28, 2019 [23 favorites]


Do you have a cellphone? Do you think its microphone is turned off?

Yes, and yes. I am somewhat mindful of the fact that its microphone might be surreptitiously used to listen in on my typing (which is all that's to be heard here at the moment) but confident enough for all practical purposes that it isn't. I haven't installed any apps that strike me as likely to be nefarious, and if people's phones were being used to secretly record audio on a large scale, under present circumstances it would not be a secret for long. They'd need to transmit and/or store all that data, and if it was being done to a large enough fraction of random mobile phone users for there to be an appreciable risk that I'd be among them, someone would notice and we'd hear about it. Much like we have heard about it with, say, Alexa. On the other hand my phone probably *is* generating a low-resolution record of everywhere it's been, more or less, so I am reluctant to take it with me when I go out sometimes. Not that I go anywhere Top Secret or have any other practical reason to worry for my own safety, I just don't want to contribute to the problem for anyone who does. Not caring about it would seem a bit selfish.

But anyway, if people are willing to deliberately and apparently of their own free will sign up to invite the ever-growing mass digital surveillance networks to cover their own doorsteps with video, maybe you've pointed out an opportunity that's being missed. What if you could get free access to a really neat mobile game, and all you had to do was install an app that lets the police (or whoever) turn your phone into a listening device any time they want? They'd promise to ask you first. If even one person in ten signs up, just think what could be accomplished.
posted by sfenders at 3:14 PM on August 28, 2019 [3 favorites]


And really, if you think this crap actively prevents crime, I invite you to watch this footage of a Tesla being stolen.

These guys are confident enough that they don't give a flying f... about the camera. The walk up to the house, do the signal-relay hack to make the car believe the key is present, and off they go.

I usually ask people about their new gadgets "what problem are you trying to solve?" What's the problem you try to solve by having a key that can remotely open your car? Were you unable to open the car without it in the past?

Same thing with these Ring monsters. What's the problem you're trying to solve? And does entire neighborhoods yapping about it - as MissySedai so aptly demonstrates - help solve that problem? Or does it make it worse?


Unless you can give me a clear reason why the advantages of your new way to solve a problem outweigh the side effects, I'll kindly suggest to take a long walk off the short pier.

Ring is a problem, not a solution. Remote key fobs too, but that's a different story.
posted by DreamerFi at 3:15 PM on August 28, 2019 [9 favorites]


(and to really drive it home - yes, that's a ring.com watermark in that video)
posted by DreamerFi at 3:17 PM on August 28, 2019


Remote entry allows me to open my car when the door locks are iced over/up. Wish my new car had it.
posted by Mitheral at 3:21 PM on August 28, 2019


And the next question would be: is that so much easier compared the old ways that you don't mind it is far easier to steal? Please note that the cost of hardware and knowledge to steal a car that way goes down faster than the software updates for your car (you ARE applying them, right?) can keep up with...
posted by DreamerFi at 3:31 PM on August 28, 2019


Every few months we get a new request to please join the local neighborhood website. My first thought is always, "Why would I want evidence of which of my neighbors are the worst human beings? I mean, I assume they're all bad, but why would I want to know which one is the worst?"

But I kind of want one of these ring doorbells. I'd pry the face off and stick it over my current doorbell (that doesn't even work as a doorbell), and then stick the camera facing a tape loop from one of the street scenes in Shaun of the Dead, with zombies shuffling down the street. And then just pray that somebody hacks it.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:51 PM on August 28, 2019 [7 favorites]


I think we are talking about different things. My fobs all just had a button to disable/enable alarm/locks; I think you are talking about keyless entry things. In my case yes. Anyone can accomplish the same thing as my fob by busting a window. All those things you listed require you to either be home or have access to your car (even in Great White North Canada you'd look a little weird having an ice scraper in your pocket at the mall.)
posted by Mitheral at 3:58 PM on August 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


Do you have a cellphone? Do you think its microphone is turned off?

I do. I don't. I get much more utility from a cellphone than I do any IoT spyware. Because it is not permanently directed in any particular orientation or even always on, it is more complicated for a bad actor to use it to spy on a third party than it would be if it was a fixed-mount camera+mic.

So the costs are (arguably) lower, especially since I pay them anyway if anyone around me uses a cell phone, and the benefits are higher, since I basically need a smartphone to be a full participant in society. This leads me to make different decisions about the respective items.

HTH HAND
posted by PMdixon at 4:10 PM on August 28, 2019 [3 favorites]


Scale can be a rights violation of its own, and just because I can buy a cheap thermal sensor for my phone shouldn't mean the police don't need a warrant to scan my home looking for suspicious heat signatures anymore because the tech is that easily distributed.

That is more or less opposite to what the SCOTUS case on point regarding FLIR imaging of grow houses (Kyllo) said. The ubiquity of a technology bears upon the expectation of privacy and what constitutes a search requiring a warrant.
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:29 PM on August 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


Without Ring cameras how will we find cool footage of TV headed ontological terrrorists handing out TVs for all the good videoboys and videogirls
posted by symbioid at 4:31 PM on August 28, 2019 [16 favorites]


Also why the fuck are americans so goddamned paranoid of every little thing, what the fuck is wrong with our society?

I blame the fucking Border Reivers (my ancestors) Goddamned cattle thieves.
posted by symbioid at 4:38 PM on August 28, 2019 [3 favorites]


ACAB and any company that cozies up to cops is a cop apologist and fuck that company.
posted by nikaspark at 4:43 PM on August 28, 2019 [10 favorites]


Google and Amazon are about the only two companies that can withstand a nation-state level hacking attempt.

And Exxon presumably had the resources to deal with a huge oil spill.

Film the cops, not the neighbors.

Right? Imagine if this was being done by a black-owned company sharing data with Black Lives Matter and the ACLU.

Also why the fuck are americans so goddamned paranoid of every little thing, what the fuck is wrong with our society?

For me the question is, why are Americans so paranoid about the government when nothing is a more demanding and persistent muse than capitalism.

Ring isn't the tool cops need. The cops are the tool Capital needs.
posted by klanawa at 4:45 PM on August 28, 2019 [7 favorites]


How Ring works with Alexa:
Amazon > Alexa Skills > Smart Home

Ring is the smart security solution that lets you watch over your home from anywhere. Now you can use the Ring Skill to manage all your Ring devices, including, doorbells, cameras, Smart Lighting, Alarm, and third-party locks. Simply enable the Ring Skill in the Alexa App and link your Alexa and Ring accounts to get started.

With Ring Camera Integration, you can see, hear, and speak to people in front of your camera from your Echo Show, Echo Spot. Simply say:
“Alexa, answer the front door.”
“Alexa, talk to the backyard.”

...

To stop your Ring feed, say:
“Alexa, hide the front door.”
“Alexa, go home.”
“Alexa, stop.”
[“Yes, Alexa. Please STOP!”]
[I’m sorry, Dave. I can’t do that...]
To see your most recent video clip from your Ring camera, say:
“Alexa, show me the last activity from the front door.”
“Alexa, show the most recent event from the backyard.”
“Alexa, pause.”

Viewing live activity also works with Shared Users so anyone connected to your Ring camera can use Alexa to see who’s at your home.

...

With Ring Alarm, you can lock and unlock your doors as well as arm, disarm, and check the state of Ring Alarm. Arm/disarm your Ring Alarm when you are either Home or Away by saying the following:
“Alexa, arm Ring.” (defaults to Home Mode)
“Alexa, arm Ring away.”
“Alexa, disarm Ring.”

...

Locking and Unlocking your doors is as easy as saying:
“Alexa, lock my front door.”
“Alexa, unlock my front door.”
“Alexa, is the front door locked?”

Sleep soundly, Citizens.
posted by cenoxo at 5:22 PM on August 28, 2019 [2 favorites]


The position of my house in my neighborhood, along with a couple of conspicuously visible cameras (not Ring), make me the go-to guy to ask for footage when theft happens on my street. This happens several times every year. I can see the utility of what Ring is doing here, in theory.

But my trust is so broken with tech companies and law enforcement and the government that I would not buy a camera with this feature unless it was 100% opt-in, as in the police don’t know about your camera unless you’ve opted in. And I would definitely not buy a camera that sent uploaded anything to the cloud without client side encryption, including for metadata.

Come to think of it, the potential for abuse so outweighs the benefit of solving the petty crimes on my street. The police don’t even care about those crimes to devote any attention to them, and that won’t change with this new technology.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 5:28 PM on August 28, 2019 [3 favorites]


Film the cops, not the neighbors.

Well, they do specify that the camera's frame shouldn't go past your property lines, and while the first thing that comes to mind is a problem of giving consent regarding someone else's property, but catching cops doing bad stuff sounds like a side benefit.

Also, it would appear they don't want users creating their own neighborhood watches, which is maybe a sign for the future. Except in that case, cut Amazon out of it and involve the police only when necessary.
posted by rhizome at 5:38 PM on August 28, 2019


@its_raining_florence_henderson, the nextdoor site is hyping up my neighbors like nothing i’ve ever seen. people share their ring vids of package stealers and all sorts of porch shenanigans. But the problem is that people rehash old stuff with comments and it looks like all of it is happening at the same time! Crime is on a rise where I live, but it is getting amplified and the site is stoking anxiety.
posted by drowsy at 5:38 PM on August 28, 2019 [2 favorites]


Anyone who puts a Ring on their door or an Alexa (or similar listening device) in their house is crazy

You know phones have microphones and cameras without hardware switches, too
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 5:58 PM on August 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


Remote entry allows me to open my car when the door locks are iced over/up. Wish my new car had it.

A couple of winters ago my next door neighbour (a pre-Boomer whose most high-tech extravagance is a remote control for her TV) was out in the parking lot scraping away at her car’s door lock. I asked her if she needed to borrow some lock de-icer. She paused and said she has some, but it was in her glove compartment.

And that, Alanis, is irony. Don’tcha think?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:06 PM on August 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


One of the creepiest ads I saw recently was all about the Ring crime report "feature". Our local news has done non-critical stories about some nearby town's police force wanting everyone to opt into the network.
posted by soelo at 6:26 PM on August 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


my $0.02: ring is a toxic garbage fire but weird ill-informed crank metafilter is a hoot
posted by entropicamericana at 6:51 PM on August 28, 2019 [4 favorites]



that's cool and all, but a modern smartphone is just a Nest that leaves the house with you.

People keep saying this as though it's an argument for putting more devices with more capabilities in your house. It's...not.


It's an argument that the smugfest expressed by so many here is rather delusional when you carry a smart phone.
posted by 2N2222 at 6:54 PM on August 28, 2019 [6 favorites]


I mean I guess the consensus is we are all idiots that want a camera recording people who step onto our porches, but I do want that capability. I haven’t done it yet but plan to soon. I want to know when something is delivered, and what someone looks like who comes onto my porch to steal a package, if it comes to that.
posted by JenMarie at 7:18 PM on August 28, 2019 [1 favorite]


So, how long before insurance companies and HOAs start requiring smart cameras?
posted by Memo at 7:31 PM on August 28, 2019 [8 favorites]


> It's an argument that the smugfest expressed by so many here is rather delusional when you carry a smart phone.

This is the same faulty logic that says that auto accidents kill more people than guns, therefore anyone who wants to take away guns and drives a car is a hypocrite, or that air travel is so bad in terms of CO2 emissions, therefore anyone who uses an airplane can't lecture anyone else about the environment.

You can't focus only on the downside of any decision/action without counting the benefits as well. A smartphone has immense positive value to people in terms of productivity, safety, and happiness. An Amazon Ring is basically a doorbell and a surveillance camera, two things people had already before Amazon created Ring. Yes, there is some value in the convenience that cloud integration brings, but that positive value doesn't come close to the value people get from carrying their smartphones.

Of course we should confront surveillance capitalism and the creeping police state anywhere we can, but this notion that we have to sort the threats in descending order of danger is silly. Labeling opposition to a technology with limited upside as a "smugfest" reeks of... well, smugness, frankly.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:17 PM on August 28, 2019 [27 favorites]


I do not have a Ring, but I live in an apartment building, and the neighbor across the hall has one, pointed straight at my door. Every time anyone comes to my door, including me, is completely in view of motion-triggered cameras I have zero control of.

Every self-driving car is bristling with sensors—you see a car driving down the street, the car sees sensor data lawfully subpoenaed and archived by a duly selected representative of the state. It only makes sense to aggregate this information.

I’ve been trying to figure out hilarious ways to fuck up this situation, but mostly I’m pissed at one more intrusion from the same “let society clean up the mess, and we’ll collect the profits” assholes currently littering our cities with fucking scooters.
posted by bigbigdog at 8:57 PM on August 28, 2019 [14 favorites]


So, how long before insurance companies and HOAs start requiring smart cameras?

A friend (who, of course, lives in a very safe, quasi-gated community...) told me that the Ring he installed basically pays for itself or even more than that because his homeowner‘s insurance gives him a lower rate if he has a home security system
posted by The Toad at 9:14 PM on August 28, 2019 [5 favorites]


I mean, the voice-controlled smart speaker with integration to controlling lights, fan, etc., the doorbell camera, and the smartphone/tablet were all really important devices to my father-in-law, who was paralyzed from the chest down and only had partial use of his non-dominant hand. Despite not being able to reposition himself in bed without a helper, with those devices he could control his own environment without help, see who was at the door and let them in (or not) without help, and talk with friends and family.

It doesn’t lessen the privacy concerns. But I’m no longer able to believe that these devices are purely unneeded extra conveniences. They can be really important for accessibility.

There’s this weird strand of “lazy idiots who selfishly indulge in this stuff deserve what they get,” which, no. It’s OK to see the value in this tech, and to want the benefits without the privacy abuses. It’s not the One Ring.
posted by snowmentality at 9:16 PM on August 28, 2019 [24 favorites]


The point with smartphones is that we need government regulation and to resist the police state, which is usually the overarching point in these types of threads. Buy this stuff or not, your individual consumer choices will not impact how this plays out for you in the long term. That will be decided by culture and policy. The spook agencies have mostly had whatever they want on you since the early 2000s (remember back when we used to talk about packet sniffing programs like Carnivore?) That has all fallen by the wayside and in the past few years the narrative has shifted to how this is now filtering down to local law enforcement, as this stuff is now cheap enough to sell to said local law enforcement. The past month or so this story has been going around, last year-ish it was Stingray which is phone tracking tech used by law enforcement and is to me more worrying in the near term.

Less politicky, smart home stuff is pretty varied; most of my stuff is lighting related and pretty innocuous security wise. Outside of privacy concerns there is now some pretty cool and useful stuff out there; just avoid Internet of Shit devices with no utility but increased reliability risks like internet connected washing machines.
posted by MillMan at 10:04 PM on August 28, 2019 [2 favorites]


snowmentality, that is indeed a perfect answer to my question "what problem are you trying to solve". Alexa is useful in that case.
posted by DreamerFi at 12:40 AM on August 29, 2019 [1 favorite]


Some officers said they now look for Ring doorbells, notable for their glowing circular buttons, when investigating crimes or canvassing neighborhoods, in case they need to pursue legal maneuvers later to obtain the video

Well, yeah.

A buddy is a LAPD detective for vehicle theft related crimes. There is a standing order (not sure how "official", but definitely the way things work) from the Los Angeles DA that any auto theft related cases without video evidence will not be prosecuted, no matter how strong the other evidence. So, the officers in your scenario are looking for Ring doorbells (or other cameras for that matter) because otherwise it is literally a complete waste of time to bother investigating otherwise. FWIW, getting Ring videos requires a warrant, but they have a relatively smooth process for doing so.
posted by sideshow at 2:57 AM on August 29, 2019 [5 favorites]


Technical question: A device like this runs off your home network, where all your daily and personal network traffic is. So it's a good idea to use the old second router to make a network just for the Ring to live on, yeah?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:27 AM on August 29, 2019


a separate network would help with WiFi congestion, but I’d imagine the apps and whatnot would require the devices to be locally reachable so you’d have to enable routing between those LANs. It’s still probably a decent precaution.
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:19 AM on August 29, 2019 [1 favorite]


the doorbell camera, and the smartphone/tablet were all really important devices to my father-in-law, who was paralyzed from the chest down and only had partial use of his non-dominant hand.

As with parking spaces reserved for people with disabilities, it's not a problem if people who have a specific legitimate need for them want to use them. It becomes a problem if everyone else feels like they should have the same right.
posted by sfenders at 5:56 AM on August 29, 2019 [2 favorites]


the smugfest expressed by so many here is rather delusional when you carry a smart phone.

I don't know what kind of phone you're carrying, but mine hardly ever takes video of random passers by and uploads it to the net without their permission.
posted by sfenders at 6:01 AM on August 29, 2019 [10 favorites]


a separate network would help with WiFi congestion

Just a footnote that this requires spacing out your WiFi channels, or it will make things worse rather than better. And in dense areas (like apartment buildings) all the available spectrum may be swamped anyway.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:10 AM on August 29, 2019 [1 favorite]


Also, for the people who are interested in having a version of this under their own control (cameras more than doorbells) probably the easiest way is to buy a NAS that runs Linux and that supports ZoneMinder (open source) as an easily downloadable package. Then you just add IP cameras. You can make it as remotely accessible or not as suits you.

The six year old Synology four-bay device I use for backups supports it, I’m sure there are other options. Or if you’re more technical, cobble together your own server. An old PC should work, the requirements are modest.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:01 AM on August 29, 2019 [5 favorites]


^snowmentality raises a good point about balancing accessibility against with privacy. AARP offers a similar POV in their brief article Who's at the Door? Smart Doorbells Have the Answer – Cameras, motion sensors and alerts help homeowners, but at what cost?
Although they may improve home security, the smart doorbells raise privacy concerns.

Those who are recorded outside your home “don't have the chance to choose whether they want to be captured on video and may not necessarily know that it's happening,” says Natasha Duarte, policy analyst at the Center for Democracy and Technology. “With all these outward-facing video-enabled security systems, you're capturing people who are not the customer of the company. There's no real consent mechanism."

Duarte says smart doorbells should not be hidden and should light up when they are recording so those on camera will be aware of it.

The homeowner also faces questions about data protection: whether it's encrypted in transmission, when it is deleted, and what options are available to delete it.

Says Duarte,"Every connected or smart technology you bring into your home introduces some new risk to privacy or, potentially, security, and so it's not that people shouldn't buy smart devices, it's that people should consider the risks and think very carefully.”
posted by cenoxo at 7:37 AM on August 29, 2019 [1 favorite]


This is the same faulty logic that says that auto accidents kill more people than guns, therefore anyone who wants to take away guns and drives a car is a hypocrite, or that air travel is so bad in terms of CO2 emissions, therefore anyone who uses an airplane can't lecture anyone else about the environment.

Eh, I guess. I mean we should both reduce the amount of guns and necessary car travel. Also air travel on a per-person basis is not that bad for the environment, at least not as bad as shutting off countries from one another which quickly leads to war.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:45 AM on August 29, 2019


I agree with Duarte’s observation on a social level, but from the perspective of privacy law you do not have an expectation of privacy versus the observation of your presence and outward appearance in quintessential public spaces like sidewalks and streets.

What is being recorded is exactly that which you are choosing to display by being in public. If your public appearance was somehow deemed private, public photography with anyone in the background would be actionable, among other absurdities and incompatibilities.

The better approach is to place limits on the use of the material collected by corporations and law enforcement.

Internet of Shit issues with all of this stuff being easily compromised are real too, but a different concern.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:03 AM on August 29, 2019


Folks install these devices for security, if your neighbor has his packages stolen and the police are investigating would you really say no you can't view the footage from the view outside my front door? This is a great use of the technology and makes them far more effective than standalone devices.
posted by zeoslap at 8:28 AM on August 29, 2019 [1 favorite]


Film the cops, not the neighbors

I have a Ring, and a No Solicitors sign, because I often work from home and was getting door knockers selling things half a dozen times a day. With the sign and obvious camera (knocking or ringing the bell is technically against the law where I live if there's a clearly posted sign, and it is visible to my camera) had reduced that to zero times s day, every day.

I also had packages stolen, even though the delivery folks tuck the packages in a little space not visible from the street, meaning folks had to be following the trucks, regularly coming onto my porch looking for potential packages, or had to be the drivers themselves. Since installing the camera, no packages stolen and no one caught scoping the porch out

But: when one of my (unknown) neighbors decided my (known, adjacent house) neighbor had let their dog crap on the unknown neighbor's lawn without picking it up -- even though my adjacent neighbors don't own a dog and never have -- and retaliated by leaving then a nasty note and smearing dog feces all over their door mat... we looked at the footage and the camera didn't motion-activate, and detail at that distance would have made it impossible to identify anything about the person other than arrival and departure.

Just mentioning this because these cameras do have some useful advantages, and aren't magic bullets with super high quality like high-end security cameras, even though I fully acknowledge they are problematic in the ways mentioned above.
posted by davejay at 8:41 AM on August 29, 2019 [2 favorites]


If your public appearance was somehow deemed private, public photography with anyone in the background would be actionable

Banning all photography in public places is not politically feasible of course, but nobody proposed that. People do in reality have some expectation of privacy even when it comes to that, however. If you stand on a street corner with a big camera and aim it at people, they'll think you weird and someone will probably call the police, even though you're standing right under a "security" camera that's recording everything. Or maybe it's just that I look weird to begin with.

But that's beside the point. If it's agreed that a future where cameras recognize your face and record your every move any time you step outside is for whatever reason not desirable (there's plenty of literature discussing why it isn't) then the obvious legal remedy is not to ban all photography. It's to prohibit fixed video cameras pointing at public places. Various exceptions could be made, for prisons, military outposts, and televised sporting events. It's not that difficult.

The video of Hong Kong protesters tearing down the surveillance cameras was, on the one hand, evidence that people can indeed learn to understand the dangers of this shit, and on the other hand an indication that perhaps things will need to approach China levels of bad before anyone bothers to try doing anything.
posted by sfenders at 8:42 AM on August 29, 2019 [6 favorites]


I worked on a similar device and was pretty aware of the goings-on of IoT garbage. I very quickly adopted the Bill Adama rule for myself; however, just be aware of the risks if/when you purchase such a device.

Technical question: A device like this runs off your home network, where all your daily and personal network traffic is. So it's a good idea to use the old second router to make a network just for the Ring to live on, yeah?

a separate network would help with WiFi congestion, but I’d imagine the apps and whatnot would require the devices to be locally reachable so you’d have to enable routing between those LANs. It’s still probably a decent precaution.

I agree with using a second router for congestion (if that's a problem), but I don't see any security benefit. If you suspect an intrusion on your wifi network, change the password and check/update the security settings on the router. If you're concerned about interception of data, Ring is hopefully using best practices: latest TLS, DTLS, SRTP, etc.

As for needing to be locally reachable, I doubt that's the case (unless the product is specifically marketed as not needing any kind of backend service). All data to and from the device is going though a server somewhere to get around NAT, as well as to enable functionality (recording video, push notifications).
posted by bonje at 9:49 AM on August 29, 2019


I think it's important to be realistic about our ability to determine if any given device with a camera and microphone is or is not recording and transmitting that data elsewhere. With phones in particular, this could be taking place at a level of software that is entirely isolated from the phone's OS and beyond its control and insight. A lot of complex electronics these days have similar architectures where individual components will have their own execution layers that operate independently of the main OS, and with their own direct unmediated access to hardware, can be doing whatever they want. Regardless of any apps you may be running that you think might prevent it or notify you, a device designed in this way can be recording without your knowledge.

Cameras like Ring take this to the next level by introducing the explicit certainty that it's recording and re-transmitting and adding an uncertainty as to who has access to that data once it's uploaded. You could devise schemes for encrypting the video such that only the account holder can view it but then a lot of the more advanced software features which are big selling points, such as recognizing family members etc. become difficult or impossible to implement.

I live in a part of LA where we are right on the edge of a pretty crime heavy area. We're on the top of a hill and sirens and orbiting helicopters in the flats below are a nightly thing. I have been told to shelter in place and not open the door for anyone not in uniform by helicopter-mounted speakers on several occasions. Our house is near the end of a road you'd think went through but doesn't, so we have some unusual traffic. Our neighbors have had their walls and fences tagged with anti-gentrification graffiti. We get a lot of foot traffic because one of the larger parks in the city has a fire road back entrance across the street. Because of this park, we have more fire risk than a lot of places in the already fire risky city. We had massive protests on our block because one of our neighbors is a member of the LAUSD school board. People still occasionally show up to protest. I'm not totally comfortable with a networked camera, but it's a trade off because knowing that such a thing exists, I find it hard to authoritatively say no one should ever take advantage of them, especially in situations like mine which are not uncommon. It's not the kind of problem that yields to glib solutions.
posted by feloniousmonk at 10:24 AM on August 29, 2019 [4 favorites]


People keep saying this as though it's an argument for putting more devices with more capabilities in your house. It's...not.

I'm not making that argument. My point is that if you're greatly concerned about having big tech up in your business, you should get rid of your smartphone.

put another way, your smartphone is an amputated leg and your nest / alexa / ring / whatever is like a broken toe on that amputated leg.
posted by Sauce Trough at 10:29 AM on August 29, 2019


I realize that everyone's obsessed with their phones these days, but this really isn't about them.
posted by sfenders at 10:45 AM on August 29, 2019 [6 favorites]


If you do want cameras that are not internet connected, the wired / local recording only era cameras that were available from (real roughly) 2008-2015 should be available used, and maybe even new in some cases, although I didn't find anything with a quick search.
posted by MillMan at 10:46 AM on August 29, 2019


If you do want cameras that are not internet connected, the wired / local recording only era cameras that were available from (real roughly) 2008-2015 should be available used, and maybe even new in some cases, although I didn't find anything with a quick search.

Yes, and even if you don't buy them used, you can get a package deal on a bunch of them for cheap.

But Ring is better than a regular security system because with a set of cameras, you have to realize that something amiss occurred, and then review all your footage to figure out if it has any value, which is not easy and takes a lot of time. Ring supplants this by only going live and messaging you when something does occur, which means you can review and discard the cruft in real-time, and if by chance you do actually happen upon crime, you can at least feel like you are doing something rather than the helpless, angry feeling that you get when you have no idea what happened and the action is hours passed.

Heck yes to all the security complaints/privacy whatever, but Ring solves a real problem that people have.
posted by The_Vegetables at 10:52 AM on August 29, 2019


Banning all photography in public places is not politically feasible of course, but nobody proposed that.

Which is why you need to deal with this sort of thing by specific statute, controlling what can be done with the recordings, rather than trying to stretch the background doctrines that privacy law relies upon to reach being videoed on the sidewalk. And some of the comments (and quoted bits) are doing that.
posted by snuffleupagus at 11:18 AM on August 29, 2019 [1 favorite]


I agree with using a second router for congestion (if that's a problem), but I don't see any security benefit.

I guess it would be if you don't trust the vendor/provider, or don't trust their security, and so want the smart devices to be able to get out to the WAN so their apps can work but also not be able to probe other devices your main network if compromised by keeping them entirely separate and outside your main router's firewall.

All data to and from the device is going though a server somewhere to get around NAT, as well as to enable functionality (recording video, push notifications).

My sense is that for pushing video and etc between devices in the same location, the backend servers often initiate a direct connection between the endpoints on a LAN, at least for the media streams, although I've never fired up a packet sniffer to check it out for the few branded devices I or my family members have.

I know I've seen some companion app features that definitely only work over the local network, I'm too lazy to refresh my memory as to which ones. Possibly nothing I use anymore. I suppose those features might still work over routed subnets, depending on how the app in question does network and device discovery and how hard you want to work at it.
posted by snuffleupagus at 11:41 AM on August 29, 2019


"... sirens and orbiting helicopters in the flats below are a nightly thing. I have been told to shelter in place and not open the door for anyone not in uniform by helicopter-mounted speakers ..."

Damn. Well, I guess if the world directly outside your front door is already a dystopian hellscape, you've little to lose by turning it into a high-tech surveillance dystopian hellscape.
posted by sfenders at 12:00 PM on August 29, 2019 [4 favorites]


The recent Capital One hacking was done by an Amazon employee. No, Amazon is not immune to a state level threat, they can't even prevent an inside job. No data company can.

Your data is not safe.

Additionally, police departments are offering these cameras FREE. So there are going to be pressures on disadvantaged families to accept this "deal."
posted by bilabial at 3:24 PM on August 29, 2019 [1 favorite]


That story is vague on details. Presumably only the device is free, or discounted (I think its a loss leader for Ring and the cops get to freeride), and the people accepting them need to be ready to pay for the service, and to be people comfortable interacting with police to get the deal.

Near me, it's the same moneyed bedroom community doing this (Arcadia, CA) that wants to get rid of its parks' basketball courts because they attract undesirables from neighboring cities.
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:44 PM on August 29, 2019


You can install and use the Ring "Neighbors" app without even owning a Ring. Anyone can spy on any neighborhood in the country with it. It asks for your address, just pop in any address within 5 miles of where you'd like to surveil, and voila! No address or email verification required (email verification appears to be optional and you can start using the app right away). You now have access to all video posts and can make comments, etc. The largest radius from your "address" you can view is 5 miles. If you're curious to travel to other locales you can just create a new account with a new address to check out a different community.
posted by hexaflexagon at 3:48 PM on August 29, 2019 [7 favorites]


There's a Ben Franklin line about the tradeoff between liberty and security but I can't remember it - maybe it got captured on some Ring footage tho.
posted by PMdixon at 4:27 PM on August 29, 2019


State and corporate surveillance is so ubiquitous and inescapable that I think a person can be forgiven for deciding that any particular intrusion is the straw that breaks the camel's back.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:51 PM on August 29, 2019 [3 favorites]


I don't understand where this attitude that large urban areas aren't already heavily surveilled comes from. Some may like to call LA a dystopia but it's not thus because I added a Nest camera on my front porch. The city already controls one of the most extensive CCTV systems in the world, replete with sophisticated zoomable/pannable hidden cameras in strategic locations, license plate readers, advanced audio recording, and specialized aircraft. If you're in a major city in the US, they have these systems. Lots of regular cities, such as my midwestern home town of approximately 100k citizens, have them, too.

The government is running around with Gorgon Stare drones while the citzenry is arguing whether a dressed up webcam with a visual range of 150 feet is too intrusive.
posted by feloniousmonk at 5:06 PM on August 29, 2019 [3 favorites]


I have a Nest doorbell and lock and I'm happy with them both. They solve the problems of letting me know if I want to answer the door without walking down a whole lot of stairs (my house is tall and I spend most of my time at the top of it) and letting people, such as contractors, in when I'm not home. Also if my cats get locked out I can see them and call home for someone to open the door for them.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 7:07 PM on August 29, 2019 [1 favorite]


What Ben Franklin Really Said, LawFare, Benjamin Wittes, July 15, 2011:
That famous quote by Benjamin Franklin that “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety” does not mean what it seems to say. Not at all.
...

The words appear originally in a 1755 letter that Franklin is presumed to have written on behalf of the Pennsylvania Assembly to the colonial governor during the French and Indian War. The letter was a salvo in a power struggle between the governor and the Assembly over funding for security on the frontier, one in which the Assembly wished to tax the lands of the Penn family, which ruled Pennsylvania from afar, to raise money for defense against French and Indian attacks. The governor kept vetoing the Assembly’s efforts at the behest of the family, which had appointed him. So to start matters, Franklin was writing not as a subject being asked to cede his liberty to government, but in his capacity as a legislator being asked to renounce his power to tax lands notionally under his jurisdiction. In other words, the “essential liberty” to which Franklin referred was thus not what we would think of today as civil liberties but, rather, the right of self-governance of a legislature in the interests of collective security.

What's more the “purchase [of] a little temporary safety” of which Franklin complains was not the ceding of power to a government Leviathan in exchange for some promise of protection from external threat; for in Franklin’s letter, the word “purchase” does not appear to have been a metaphor. The governor was accusing the Assembly of stalling on appropriating money for frontier defense by insisting on including the Penn lands in its taxes--and thus triggering his intervention. And the Penn family later offered cash to fund defense of the frontier--as long as the Assembly would acknowledge that it lacked the power to tax the family’s lands. Franklin was thus complaining of the choice facing the legislature between being able to make funds available for frontier defense and maintaining its right of self-governance--and he was criticizing the governor for suggesting it should be willing to give up the latter to ensure the former.
All politics is local, and usually concerns someone’s money.
posted by cenoxo at 7:20 PM on August 29, 2019 [6 favorites]


If you're curious to travel to other locales you can just create a new account with a new address to check out a different community.

So access to all video's everywhere is just a little shell script away. Great privacy.
posted by DreamerFi at 4:11 AM on August 30, 2019 [2 favorites]


Fin you refused to share your data with the police, Ring told the police some stats about you. From Gizmodo.
posted by bilabial at 11:55 AM on August 30, 2019


From bilabial’s cited Gizmodo article, Ring Gave Police Stats About Users Who Said No to Law Enforcement Requests, August 30, 2019 [brackets & emphasis mine]:
...Recent reporting by Gizmodo revealed that Ring has forbidden police from using the term “surveillance” to describe its products, in at least one case, openly admitting the term could “flag user privacy concerns.” Ring says it looks at press release and “any messaging prior to distribution” to ensure its “products and services are accurately represented.”

Civil liberties advocates are particularly concerned, they say, because of Ring’s connection with Amazon, the trillion-dollar multinational, which purchased Ring in a $1 billion deal last summer. Amazon [e.g., Amazon Rekognition] is a leading developer of law enforcement facial-recognition software, which independent studies have shown is deeply and intrinsically flawed, prone to error and gender and racial bias.

While Ring is vehement that it does not share its customers’ personal information with law enforcement without their consent, in some cases, it may still be possible for police to discern which Ring customers have refused to provide assistance. While police issuing requests for footage are not told which residents receive them, they are aware that requests go wide to any Neighbors users with cameras within a certain range of the address they provide.

In some cases, but not all, police are fully aware of which homes are equipped with Ring surveillance. If a user will provide footage, the police can try to obtain a warrant for the footage, provided they have probable cause to believe a crime has occurred. It remains unclear whether Ring customers are made aware of the warrants, even if they are not themselves targets of an investigation.

In Fort Lauderdale, police went to dozens of homes and helped residents install Ring cameras after holding raffles at neighborhood watch meetings and handing them out for free. According to emails obtained by Gizmodo, the officers were specifically instructed by superiors to verify that the winners downloaded Ring’s Neighbors app so they could receive police requests.
The Fort Lauderdale Police Department did not respond to requests for comment made Thursday.

Police in other cities acquire the names and addresses of Ring customers in other ways, regardless of Ring’s privacy policies. This may include those who acquired devices through taxpayer-funded discount programs, which Ring has established in numerous cities across the U.S. On Friday, the Guardian published a map Ring reportedly gave to a police department that appeared to show the locations of hundreds of Ring devices.
...
Citizen, we rekognize you’re not doing anything wrong, but are you also doing all the right things?

Amazon is certainly trying to: see A Data-Driven Answer Why Ring’s Acquisition by Amazon Was One of The Smartest Moves of the Company in 2018 for its Path to $1 Trillion Market Cap, Medium, Marcos Ortiz, February 28, 2018.
posted by cenoxo at 1:34 PM on August 30, 2019 [2 favorites]


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