Amazon-owned Ring, a company that makes home security devices, has fired four employees on separate occasions for over-stepping the mark when accessing customers’ video feeds.
Although the workers had permission to access footage, they were found to have “exceeded what was necessary for their job functions”.
In November, five US Democratic senators sent a letter questioning Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, seeking answers as to why staff in Ring’s Ukrainian office, where the company has an R&D department, were permitted access to customer video data. It was in the company’s detailed response to this letter that the terminations came to light.
The response said a “very limited number of employees (currently three) have the ability to access stored customer videos for the purpose of maintaining Ring’s AWS [Amazon web services] infrastructure,” but noted this was not unrestricted access.
Amazon said that its R&D team in Ukraine 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”.
The response detailed how, over a period of four years, the company had received four complaints about staff inappropriately watching customers’ videos. In each instance it said it had investigated the complaint and terminated the individuals contract.
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“In addition to taking swift action to investigate and take appropriate disciplinary action in each of these cases, Ring has taken multiple actions to limit such data access to a smaller number of team members,” it said.
“Ring periodically reviews the access privileges it grants to its team members to verify that they have a continuing need for access to customer information for the purpose of maintaining and improving the customer experience.”
Amazon did not elaborate further about who had complained, where they were based or what footage the employees had been watching when they were deemed to have overstepped the mark.
At the end of 2019, it was reported that a hacker had hijacked a Ring device and tried to talk to an eight-year-old American girl. There have been a number of other incidents when the devices have been compromised or used to shout abuse at owners. It has also been reported that a security flaw in the Ring cameras left 3,000 device vulnerable to hackers.