Smart speakers and security cameras offer a wide variety of benefits to users, but can sometimes have unexpected trade-offs, as recently highlighted in the US with two of Amazon’s flagship products. Be careful if you buy an Echo speaker or camera: your privacy would be in danger.
Permits without judicial authorization
The article cites that Amazon has granted permission without any judicial or user authorization to the authorities on 11 occasions. This has sparked the concern of Senator Ed Markey, who has asked the company’s managers to define exactly what an emergency situation that deserves direct access to user data is for it.
Amazon limited itself to indicating that these situations would involve «an imminent risk of death or serious physical harm», and ensures that «Ring has a good faith conviction as long as the request meets the standards». Regardless of willful statements, users of Ring cameras or Echo speakers may never be aware that the content of the devices is accessible for the police, or how long they can store it.
In his web page, Amazon emphasizes that it is very aware of user privacyas well as its security, clarifying that «it does not disclose customer information in response to government demands, unless we are required to do so to comply with a legally valid and binding request.»
As for the Authorities access to user informationit is explained that “we cooperate with them when they observe the legal guarantees to carry out these investigations, we oppose the legislation that orders or prohibits security or encryption technologies that have the effect of weakening the security of products, systems or services that our customers use.
Spain, second country in requests for information
Amazon also presents semi-annual reports on the requests for information from the authorities that it receives in its different markets, and in the last one, made public in January 2022, it highlights that Spain is the second country with the highest number of applications, with 3,455, 11.8% of the total. The first is Germany, with 53.6% of requests, and the US is in fourth place with 10.4% (3,042 requests).
For both Ring cameras and Echo and Alexa smart speakers, the user has the option to activate end-to-end encryption and to delete the recordings, but they are not options that come by default. Unlike Amazon, other companies, like Apple, do prevent Siri from collecting recordings by default.
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