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FTC: Former Amazon Ring Employee Spied On Women With Cameras In Bathrooms and Bedrooms

The complaint says the company didn't do enough to stop employees accessing user cameras.

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In court filings, the Federal Trade Commission said that Amazon violated the privacy rights of people by allowing employees unrestricted access to footage recorded by the Ring doorbell camera. The company agreed to a $5.8 million settlement.

In 2017, a Ring employee spied on 81 female customers and Ring employees for months. The FTC claimed that another employee noticed the misconduct, reported it, and the employee was fired.

According to the allegations brought forward, it seems there’s a particularly disconcerting instance where one worker, over the span of several months, is accused of violating personal boundaries by watching thousands of video clips from Ring cameras. These weren’t just any clips; they were sensitive footage from the private living spaces of female users, including their bathrooms and bedrooms.

But the disturbing tale doesn’t end there. It appears that Ring was caught with its virtual pants down, having neglected to install basic safeguards to keep tabs on the video access by its staff. Despite making an effort to limit this access later on, the company found itself unable to figure out whether a bunch of its other employees had also invaded the privacy of its users by improperly accessing personal videos.

In May 2018, a Ring employee gave a customer’s recordings to their ex-husband without consent.

In February 2019, Ring changed its policies to prevent employees and contractors from accessing videos made by Ring cameras without consent.

The FTC said that Ring gave staff unrestricted access to sensitive video data of customers.

“As a result of this dangerously overbroad access and lax attitude toward privacy and security, employees and third-party contractors were able to view, download, and transfer customers’ sensitive video data,” the agency said.

In a separate complaint, Amazon paid $25 million to settle an allegation that it violated the privacy of children by failing to delete recordings by Alexa at the request of parents and also kept the recordings for longer than necessary.

“The unlawfully retained voice recordings provided Amazon with a valuable database for training the Alexa algorithm to understand children, benefiting its bottom line at the expense of children’s privacy,” the FTC said.

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