Never mind SETI and NASA, if your Ring somehow snaps ET, Amazon might give you $1M

Fly light-years to our planet and get the real Earth experience: Privacy invaded by doorbell cam

Amazon is back with a cheeky way to normalize the privacy conundrum that are Ring doorbell cameras - a $1 million prize for anyone able snap "scientific evidence" of extraterrestrials using one of its porch cams.

The Ring Million Dollar Sighting publicity stunt, er, contest is open between now and November, and Amazon has even managed to land an "extraterrestrial expert" in the form of meteorologist and astrobiologist Dr Jacob Haqq Misra of Blue Marble Space to judge the competition.

Given that various SETI projects has been trying to find this evidence for more than 40 years using advanced comms arrays to hunt extraterrestrial life, the chances of aliens getting spotted by a Ring camera are considerably less than those of Amazon paying a 21 percent corporation tax rate.

Entrants are invited to capture unaltered one-minute videos – with audio – from their Ring doorbell cameras that Dr Haqq Misra can validate exhibit "unusual, extraordinary or unexplainable behavior" that "is necessarily extraterrestrial in origin" to the point of "unequivocally" ruling out any Earth-based phenomena.

"The threshold for scientific evidence is high, but I hope to see some interesting candidates," Haqq Misra told us.

Or, if you don't want to wait for ET to wander through your neighborhood, you could always forgo the $1 million prize and compete for a $500 Amazon gift card by staging your own alien encounter – the more creative the better, obviously. 

The contest website appears to be down as of writing, though Amazon assured us the event is still happening. "We're working to get the contest website back online and are excited to see what our customers submit," Ring PR manager Nick Schweers told The Register

The site at the moment reads: "Please save your content for now. Our team is actively working to refuel the mothership."

Look over here – something other than the FTC!

Some might say that alien sightings are just one more way Amazon can distract from the surveillance capitalism reality of Ring.

Amazon gave doorbell footage to US law enforcement without a warrant nor permission from camera owners, even going as far to hand over recordings from inside one person's home without giving them a say.

Along with established incidents of Amazon gladly sharing footage without a warrant, the US Federal Trade Commission extracted $30.8 million from Amazon in June for allegedly allowing Ring employees unfettered access to footage from customers' homes.

Amazon compromised "its customers' privacy by allowing any employee or contractor to access consumers' private videos and by failing to implement basic privacy and security protections, enabling hackers to take control of consumers' accounts, cameras, and videos," the FTC said.

Ring staff were allegedly untrained on how to handle private data, and in many cases abused it by spying on Ring owners, the FTC alleged. The agency also charged Amazon with retaining recordings of children without parental permission – which would be a violation of the US Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

The FTC also filed a massive antitrust lawsuit against Amazon last week, accusing it of being a monopolist in the online retail space by, among other things, using algorithms to inflate prices and forcing third-party sellers to use its fulfillment services.

Phew. Amazon has a lot on its federal regulatory plate right now. Perfect timing for some extraterrestrial-inspired bread and circuses. ®

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