Published: Sat, January 11, 2020
Markets | By Otis Pena

Amazon’s Ring Fired Staff for Trying to Access Customer Data

Amazon’s Ring Fired Staff for Trying to Access Customer Data

The doorbell-camera giant Ring has terminated employees in recent years for improperly accessing users' video data, the company told lawmakers this week, an admission that could ratchet up pressure on the Amazon-owned firm to prove it protects customer privacy.

"Over the last four years, Ring has received four complaints or inquiries regarding a team member's access to Ring video data", wrote Brian Huseman, a vice president for public policy at Amazon, in the letter penned earlier this week to five USA senators.

"Although each of the individuals involved in these incidents was authorised to view video data, the attempted access to that data exceeded what was necessary for their job functions", he said. In each case, the employees were fired for violating company policy. But Senator Wyden said: "Amazon needs to go further - by protecting all Ring devices with two-factor authentication".

"Over the last four years, Ring has received four complaints or inquiries regarding a team member's access to Ring video data", Huseman said in the response letter, dated January 6.

The news puts a fly in the ointment of Ring's attempt to make users feel more secure by launching a "privacy dashboard" at the CES 2020 conference on Monday.

"We are aware of incidents discussed below where employees violated our policies".

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As reported by The Intercept in January of past year, Ring allowed a team of workers in Ukraine to access user videos as part of a research and development initiative.

Three employees now have the ability to access customers' stored videos for the goal of maintaining Ring's data infrastructure, Huseman said. The company, he added, logs and monitors all access of customer video data. Plus, there is an R&D team in Ukraine that can access videos but only those that are public or have been consented by their colleagues, contractors, friends individually.

Amazon did not reveal any more details about who complained, who the individuals were or where they were based but said it was always working to limit the number of people with access to video feeds.

It was revealed in a letter sent to U.S. senators, in response to questions about the company's security practices.

The response comes amid a series of hacks and privacy breaches that compromised access to homeowners' video feeds.

Ring instead is leaving it up to existing customers to decide whether to enable two-factor authentication.

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