Amazon Wants Drones Watching Your Home, not just Speakers Listening In

October 5, 2020

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Amazon's Ring Privacy Monitoring Drone.

When you saw this news, you might have thought it was an Onion article or taken from a plot of a dystopian Black Mirror episode. Apparently, Amazon isn't content for you to have a fixed speaker or two inside your house with the ability to monitor you and gather your data. Amazon recently announced a Ring drone (Ring is a security company they acquired) that will fly around the interior of your home, shooting and livestreaming video. Amazon's Ring Always Home Cam is going to revolutionize home monitoring services and the Internet of Things, and certainly poses some big privacy questions in the process. It will cost $249. The drone itself is about 5 inches tall and 7 inches in diameter with a somewhat larger base station. And apparently it's designed for privacy and designed not to have any data accessibile to employees, but after many privacy issues from contractors snooping on base stations, and Amazon having some questionable privacy defaults, one has to be sketical.

One semi-interesting privacy factor is that the base physically blocks the camera and it can only record when in flight: mirroring the security practice that some people do of putting a piece of tape over their laptop webcam. This is a good first step. And to be fair, a mobile camera might prove useful in some circumstances: imagine being on vacation and having peace of mind that your entire home is safe and your stove isn't on and your refrigerator door is closed and anything else you might OCD about can be verified. It will be completely autonomous and fly around without you initiating the security sweep and easy to use.

Interestingly, images from the camera currently post a watermark on photos: "Ring Always Home Cam has not been authorized as required by the rules of the Federal Communications Commission. Ring Always Home Cam is not, and may not be, offered for sale or lease, or sold or leased, until authorization is obtained." If you're concerned about your home's security, this might be a great tool to look into getting. If you're concerned about your home's privacy, this might be a nightmare and represent almost a 1984 sort of Big Brother scenario for you. It will be interesting to see its market adoption and how it helps secure homes and to see what privacy issues might end up emerging from this in real world usage.

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