Amazon’s Ring Always Home surveillance drone is disturbing
Amazon has announced a new way for consumers to monitor their own homes: a drone equipped with a camera that connects to Ring security systems. Ring, which is owned by Amazon, has a habit of allowing controversial levels of surveillance in homes and neighborhoods. So the addition of a flying camera that can venture into new nooks and crannies is unsettling at best.
The Ring Always Home Cam is designed to fly over different areas of someone’s home from time to time, capturing footage before landing on their dock. The device is intended to stay indoors and fly autonomously based on pre-programmed flight paths that navigate the walls of a house, a Ring spokesperson told Recode. The announcement comes after Amazon last year obtained a patent for a home surveillance drone; it should also be mentioned that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has not yet authorized the sale of this device.
Amazon says its new Ring surveillance drone is slated to go on sale in 2021 for $ 249 (once FCC clearance is obtained), and the company says it has incorporated the product out of “privacy” concerns. In one live blog of the virtual announcement event, Amazon said the Always Home camera “only records when it’s in flight; when not in use, it sits in a docking station and the camera is physically blocked. The company added that the drone is “loud enough that you can hear when it’s in motion.” This is illustrated in a promotional video from Ring which shows a hypothetical theft in which a burglar breaks into a man’s room while the man is not at home. The drone then chases the burglar away as the man anxiously watches the action through a smartphone app.
At first glance, the new Ring drone may seem neat and futuristic, but it also brings to mind the company’s turbulent history of privacy and surveillance. Ring has long faced strong criticism of its existing security products, and those concerns only increased after Amazon. acquired the company for $ 1 billion in 2018. A particularly sensitive question is that of Ring vast and somewhat secretive network of police partnerships, which allow law enforcement to request images collected by Ring cameras. Ring’s Neighbors app was also accused of exacerbate racism and capitalize on the fear of crime. During this time, many, including some members of Congress, fear that the company will integrate facial recognition into the Ring platform.
“Introducing a traveling drone security camera inside your own home potentially overturns the very idea of the home as a private place,” Matthew Guariglia, political analyst at The Electronic, told Recode. Frontier Foundation. “Amazon’s new products certainly have the potential to expand what was already an invasive surveillance system into the realm of the absurd.”
While a spokesperson for Ring told Recode that the images from the Always Home camera cannot be requested by the police, Amazon has not made a formal commitment not to allow the police to request these images from the company. ‘to come up.
The Ring drone announcement comes at a time when Amazon is also trying to expand the functionality of its products into private and public spaces with an update to its Sidewalk project. As Amazon explains on his site, Sidewalk aims to create a shared network that could connect a suite of Amazon’s connected home products, like some of its Ring devices and Echo voice assistants. The effort also aims to operate on a larger scale, potentially connecting devices in a neighborhood. For example, Amazon says Sidewalk would allow certain Ring products to continue sending certain alerts even without a wifi connection. Ultimately, the platform will promote “smart security” and even help find pets and valuables, the company said in a blog post on Monday.
“The Sidewalk project has the potential to expand what is meant to be home surveillance to community and neighborhood surveillance,” Guariglia said. “With all of these technologies, people who buy this equipment often don’t ask what their neighbors think about the technology that could potentially extend the reach of smart, networked devices, including those created for the purpose of recording and tracking well. outside of their own property. and in public spaces.
So despite the heralded benefits of Amazon’s growing gadget network, the company is also bracing for more criticism of how these products also appear invasive or even Orwellian, especially as lawmakers face increased pressure. for regulate surveillance products and limit the technological capabilities of law enforcement agencies.
Basically it looks like Amazon wants to be everywhere and is working hard to make it happen. So while each Ring product may seem useful – even cool – in itself, taken as a whole, Amazon produces a constellation of connected products that could be reused to register and monitor us, whether through its devices with microphone and camera, like the Echo and the Echo Show, or the new Ring cameras for cars Amazon also announced on Thursday. And with each new device, Amazon seems to hold more maps, not only collecting data about what’s going on in our homes, but also in our neighborhoods. This may not be the future we want.
Open source is made possible by Omidyar Network. All Open Sourced content is editorially independent and produced by our journalists.