U.S. FTC Settles With Amazon Over Insecure Ring Cameras ftc.gov

Lesley Fair, of the U.S.’ Federal Trade Commission:

Many consumers who use video doorbell and security cameras want to detect intruders invading the privacy of their homes. Consumers who installed Ring may be surprised to learn that according to a proposed FTC settlement, one “intruder” that was invading their privacy was Ring itself. The FTC says Ring gave its employees and hundreds of Ukraine-based third-party contractors up-close-and-personal video access into customers’ bedrooms, their kids’ bedrooms, and other highly personal spaces – including the ability to download, view, and share those videos at will. And that’s not all Ring was up to. In addition to a $5.8 million financial settlement, the proposed order in the case contains provisions at the intersection of artificial intelligence, biometric data, and personal privacy. It’s an instructive bookend to another major biometric privacy case the FTC announced today, Amazon Alexa.

To put the financial settlement in context, Amazon sold an estimated 1.7 million Ring cameras in 2021 — the most recent year for which I could find sales figures — and the cheapest Ring camera you could buy at the time retailed for $60. In response to years of contractor and public abuses of its insecure webcams, Amazon has to pay about three weeks’ worth of a single year of sales. That is hardly a punitive amount, and the FTC only says it is to be “used for consumer refunds”: sorry Amazon fibbed about the security of the cheap product it sold to 55,000 people, thus permitting many of them to be tormented and spied upon, but at least some of them can get their money back. And of course Amazon has to admit no culpability.