FTC Finds Amazon Ring Cameras Responsible for “Egregious Violations of Users’ Privacy,” Requires Data Deletion
May 31, 2023
In a proposed consent order released today, the Federal Trade Commission will require Amazon to “delete data products such as data, models, and algorithms derived from videos it unlawfully reviewed,” implement new privacy and security measures, and pay a fine of $5.8 million. The proposed order was published alongside a complaint finding that Amazon marketed Ring camera products on promises of security and privacy, but that the company implemented unreasonably lax cybersecurity practices and permitted employees nearly unlimited access to sensitive videos. The complaint alleges that Amazon’s practices were both unfair and deceptive.
In one case, an Amazon employee had access to dozens of cameras surveilling intimate spaces like bathrooms and bedrooms, which the employee used to spy on women. In another, Amazon failed to implement cybersecurity practices to prevent known hacking attacks, leading to bad actors severely harassing and spying on people through their indoor Ring cameras. The FTC has increasingly used data deletion and algorithmic disgorgement requirements to prevent companies from continuing to profit from wrongful practices after a database or algorithm is created. EPIC Senior Counsel Ben Winters authored a paper on algorithmic disgorgement last year.
EPIC regularly files comments in response to proposed FTC consent orders and complaints regarding business practices that violate privacy rights. In comments to the FTC last year, EPIC applauded the agency’s use of disgorgement penalties. In 2019, EPIC and a coalition of groups published a product warning for Ring cameras, citing ease of hacking, failures to protect personal information, and Amazon’s practice of sharing Ring videos with police departments without user consent. In 2021, EPIC filed a complaint against Amazon in Washington, DC highlighting Amazon’s unfair and deceptive use of deceptive design to prevent people from cancelling their Prime subscriptions.