Jul 13, 2021
Laura Berrill

Amazon rolls out encryption for Ring doorbells technology

Amazon offers end-to-end encryption for videos captured by Ring doorbell worldwide

The end-to-end encryption follows successful trials in the US and means that only the smartphone on which the video is received will be able to view the files.

End-to-end encryption is a security feature favoured by privacy-focused messaging services such as WhatsApp. However, some governments, including the UK, say it makes law enforcement more difficult.

According to Ring, the police in the UK only have access to data that Ring owners choose to share, but adds that globally, "applicable laws" may limit the availability of end-to-end encryption technology "in some areas". The company declined to name them. Ring video footage is stored on Amazon web servers (AWS), but end-to-end encryption means the tech giant will not be able to view it, or hand it over.

Security, not surveillance

The Electronic Frontier Foundation asked Ring to consider making the change last year. A spokesperson for the company said consumers' choice to buy a camera cannot and should not be a way to launder mass surveillance and streamline digital racial profiling. Professor Alan Woodward, a cyber-security expert from the University of Surrey, also added that when transmitting any sensitive information, it was always wise to encrypt the data. In addition, people will say that the area outside their homes is a private environment.

Other new security features including the option of authenticator apps - an extra security log-in step, and using Captcha images will also be added.

Amazon bought the US firm Ring for a reported $1 billion in 2018 and said it was on a  mission to make neighbourhoods safer, with ‘utmost privacy, security and user control.’

However, in Seattle, Amazon is facing legal action over a decision to open up a range of its products, including the Ring doorbell, to connect to each other using home owners' broadband without consent - a scheme known as Sidewalk. And in January 2019, Ring faced reports from The Intercept and The Information accusing the company of mishandling videos collected by its line of smart home devices and failing to inform users the videos would be reviewed by people; therefore not protecting any sensitive footage with encryption.



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