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Amazon expands end-to-end video encryption to battery-powered Ring devices

Whether this works as advertised is key

Ring's battery-powered video-doorbells-slash-surveillance cameras can finally turn on end-to-end encryption (E2EE).

The move expands this privacy and security feature, which debuted last year in its hard-wired and plug-in Ring devices. 

"We believe we should offer a full range of privacy options to as many customers as possible," according to a Ring blog on the E2EE expansion.

Ring, by default, already encrypted videos as they are uploaded and stored on Ring servers. Adding E2EE, however, should ensure that only the Ring owner can access and view videos because the necessary key to decrypt the data is stored on a device attached to the account. 

As the smart-home biz explained in an earlier blog about the privacy feature:

With End-to-End Encryption, customer videos are further secured with an additional lock, which can only be unlocked by a key that is stored on the customer's enrolled mobile device, designed so that only the customer can decrypt and view recordings on their enrolled device.

Ring owners can learn how to set up video E2EE here. The security update thus, in theory at least, prevents third parties from accessing messages or videos.

It may put a damper on Amazon's cozy relationship with the cops. One of the tech giant's VPs recently admitted to turning over Ring footage to US law enforcement without permission from the devices' owners 11 times so far in 2022.

With E2EE, however, if the system works as described, only the device owners can access the footage. This means Ring videos can't be used to, say, build a criminal case against people seeking abortions in post-Roe America or other countries like Poland, should the doorbell cam be located near a medical facility that offers the procedure.

Nothing to see here, officer — or would-be bounty hunter.

The move also comes as at least one US city is mulling a law that would allow police to use private security cameras, such as those in Ring doorbells, for real-time surveillance purposes. 

But even without a law on the books, San Francisco cops allegedly already used private surveillance cameras — without the Board of Supervisors' permission — to spy on protestors following the 2020 police murder of George Floyd, according to the EFF and ACLU. The two organizations filed a lawsuit against the city and county of San Francisco last month.

In addition to expanding E2EE, Ring also added a service that lets subscribers remove devices from their Ring account and either keep or delete videos and other events from that device before removing it. 

Customers that want to keep the videos and events can access them via a Ring account after the device is deactivated or transferred to another user. ®

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