Four employees of Amazon’s home security company Ring have been fired after being caught snooping at users’ videos.
The online retail giant admitted terminating individuals over unauthorized access in a letter dated January 6 that was addressed to US senators Ron Wyden, Edward Markey, Gary Peters, Chris Van Hollen, and Christopher Coons.
In the letter, Amazon states: “Over the last four years, Ring has received four complaints or inquiries regarding a team member’s access to Ring video data. Although each of the individuals involved in these incidents was authorized to view video data, the attempted access to that data exceeded what was necessary for their job functions.
“In each instance, once Ring was made aware of the alleged conduct, Ring promptly investigated the incident, and after determining that the individual violated company policy, terminated the individual.”
Amazon’s letter was written in response to an earlier letter dated November 20 that was sent to the company by the aforementioned senators. In that letter, the senators asked Amazon to answer a long list of questions regarding the data and security practices of the Ring company and the security of its camera-bearing doorbell devices, which have been purchased in the millions.
One of the questions asked was “How many employees of Amazon and Ring have access to American users’ camera data?” Amazon answered that R&D teams can only access publicly available videos and videos available from Ring employees, contractors, and friends and family of employees or contractors with their express consent.
“Aside from this,” wrote Amazon, “a very limited number of employees (currently three) have the ability to access stored customer videos for the purpose of maintaining Ring’s AWS infrastructure.”
The company said that Ring logs and monitors all access, adding that employees and contractors are warned that improper access to, or use of, confidential information or technology could result in termination.
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. The newly unveiled account control panel was designed to help users manage their access settings better and block intruders from viewing their video footage.
After a stream of headlines slamming the security of its video doorbell devices, this latest revelation could potentially push the Amazon-owned company one step closer to bringing down the curtain on its beleaguered devices.
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