Using Federal Trade Commission documentation as the basis for his claims, Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida on Thursday leveled an attack on Ring doorbells, saying they present a privacy danger.
On May 31, the FTC filed an order to address its concerns about Ring, which it had elaborated upon in a complaint filed the same day.
On Thursday, Gaetz tweeted a piece of video shot during FTC Chair Lina Khan’s appearance before Congress.
“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.
“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.”
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.
The FTC complaint against Ring alleged that “between June and August 2017, a Ring employee viewed thousands of video recordings belonging to at least 81 unique female users (including customers and Ring employees) of Ring Stick Up Cams. The employee-focused his prurient searches on cameras with names indicating that they surveilled an intimate space, 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.
“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.”
Under the order, which is not yet final, Ring has to delete all images, data and other elements from the videos that were illegally viewed. The company has to develop new privacy and security safeguards to protect privacy.
“Ring’s disregard for privacy and security exposed consumers to spying and harassment,” Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection said on the FTC’s website. “The FTC’s order makes clear that putting profit over privacy doesn’t pay.”