Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, a Republican, attacked Ring doorbells on Thursday, claiming they pose a privacy risk based on data from the Federal Trade Commission.
The FTC expressed its concerns about Ring in a complaint that was submitted that same day, and on May 31 it issued an order to resolve those concerns.
Gaetz tweeted a clip of the FTC Chair Lina Khan’s presentation before Congress on Thursday.
“DID YOU KNOW??? Perverts at @Ring are: •sexually propositioning grandmas •watching you sleep •watching you use the bathroom •unable to stop hackers from threatening you and your children,” Gaetz tweeted.
DID YOU KNOW???
Perverts at @Ring are:
•sexually propositioning grandmas
•watching you sleep
•watching you use the bathroom
•unable to stop hackers from threatening you and your children
— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) July 13, 2023
“Millions of Americans have Ring doorbell cameras, and your agency recently put out a correspondence saying, ‘During a three-month period in 2017, a Ring employee viewed thousands of videos of female users in their bedrooms and bathrooms including videos of Ring’s own employees,’” Gaetz said in the video.
“There was also at Ring, according to the FTC, an unauthorized tunnel that allowed a Ukraine-based contractor to access consumer videos,” he said, also citing “an incident where a Ring employee gave information about a customer to their ex-husband.”
Gatez further cited the FTC documents that said “bad actors took advantage of the camera’s two-way communication functionality to harass and threaten people who used Ring cameras. There was a case where an 87-year old woman in an assisted living facility was sexually propositioned through Ring’s two-way features. Kids were subject to racial slurs.”
Why is this invasion of privacy even allowed? Peeping Toms use to get charged, why can’t corporations who invade privacy in that same regard?
— DC Corruption, LLC (@Corruption_Ink) July 13, 2023
Khan replied that the FTC had taken enforcement actions.
“I thought that when people got Ring, it was to enhance their personal security, not to have their 87-year-old relative in an ALF sexually propositioned, their children to be slurred at and then to be told that they were going to be killed if they didn’t pay Bitcoin ransom,” Gaetz said.
According to the FTC lawsuit filed against Ring, “between June and August 2017, a Ring employee saw hundreds of video clips belonging to at least 81 unique female users of Ring Stick Up Cams, including Ring customers and Ring employees. The worker concentrated his voyeuristic searches on cameras whose titles suggested they were monitoring a private area, such as “Master Bedroom,” “Master Bathroom,” or “Spy Cam.”
“On hundreds of occasions during this three-month period, the employee perused female customers’ and employees’ videos, often for an hour or more each day. Undetected by Ring, the employee continued spying for months,” the complaint said.
The FTC Forces Ring to Take User Privacy Seriously | Electronic Frontier Foundation
'FTC alleged … 2017, … Ring employee had, “… viewed thousands of video recordings belonging to female users of Ring cameras … in …bathrooms or bedrooms."' https://t.co/wYft0xJIPA
— ꙮMantis Space Marine (@emccoy_writer) July 10, 2023
“In January 2018, a male employee used his broad access rights to spy on a female colleague through her videos. Using her email address as a look-up mechanism, the employee identified his female co-worker’s device and watched her stored video recordings without her permission,” the complaint wrote.
The complaint said that “because Ring failed to implement basic measures to monitor and detect inappropriate access before February 2019, Ring has no idea how many instances of inappropriate access to customers’ sensitive video data actually occurred. Indeed, Ring only discovered the incidents described above through the good fortune of employee reporting, despite having given employees zero security training and no responsibility to engage in such reporting.”
In addition to misuse of two-way communication cited by Gaetz, the complaint said, “Several women lying in bed heard hackers curse at them; … A teenager was sexually propositioned; … and a hacker told a woman that her location was being tracked and that her device would self-destruct at the end of his countdown; she disconnected the device before his countdown ended.”
The order, which is not yet final, requires Ring to remove all photos, data, and other components from the illegally accessed videos. To protect privacy, the organization must create new privacy and security measures.