Sep 28, 2020
Amazon’s smart security subsidiary, Ring, last week at its virtual hardware event launched a flying indoor security camera that is becoming the latest product to set off privacy alarms.
Called the Ring Always Home Cam, the $249 drone, set to launch in 2021, flies around predetermined areas of a home to offer assorted viewpoints before returning to a docking station to charge.
In a blog post, Jamie Siminoff, founder of Ring, wrote that the Always Home Cam will allow owners to monitor multiple areas of their home with just one device, instead of purchasing several cameras.
For privacy, the device only records when in flight, can’t be controlled manually and hums when in motion to provide “privacy you can hear.” The company is touting two-factor authentication and end-to-end encryption, arriving later this year, as safeguards against hacking. “Obstacle-avoidance” technology assures the drone won’t crash into people or other things in flight.
Concerns are nevertheless being raised about potential hacks as well as the social impact of the extended level of household surveillance the device offers. To some, Amazon.com could particularly benefit by gaining an additional level of home surveillance for targeting purposes, beyond Alexa’s eavesdropping microphones, Ring’s video doorbells and other Alexa-enabled home devices.
Wrote Geoffrey Fowler, technology columnist for The Washington Post, “The direction the company wants to take connected life is unmistakable: more recordings feeding into Amazon artificial intelligence to automate our homes and our lives.”
Will Oremus, senior writer for OneZero, speculated that the device could be used “to take inventories of users’ stuff and recommend things to buy, or even order refills automatically, sort of like a smart fridge for your whole house.”
Longtime tech journalist Walt Mossberg tweeted, “In a country with no laws regulating digital privacy, anyone who buys this from a company with a history of privacy problems is insane.”
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Are the privacy concerns surrounding Ring Always Home Cam justified? Do you agree that Amazon has an eye on using such devices to support its core retail business?
“I’m googly-eyed over Amazon. Yet even I’m unconvinced of any benefit beyond Amazon’s interior surveillance for profitable, personalized data.”
“Only half-joking, this is how SkyNet develops.”
“Privacy concerns are definitely justified and will turn off certain people; however, for others it will make their lives more efficient and more safe with more peace of mind.”