New Video – How Ring Recovered From December 2019 (Ring App Privacy Run-Through)

Ring had a bad end to December 2019, with various news items in the mainstream press about different breaches and hacks, including the very worrying story of parents who noticed that a ‘hacker’ was watching their children play via the nursery’s Ring camera.

Ring therefore released various new app features at the start of 2020 including the Ring app control centre, allowing people to take control of the privacy and security of their Ring accounts in a much easier way.

Equally the Ring app has some device-level privacy settings, which this video also explores:

Video Transcript

Hey YouTube, I’m Tristan from Smart Home Point. At the end of 2019, Ring had quite a lot of bad press. There’s firstly an article in the New York Times – which a lot of people viewed – which said that Ring camera was hacked, and this allowed people to watch a couple’s young children (in the nursery playing), which is really creepy! And then a bit later on – around a week later – over three and a half thousand Ring customers had their data breached – or dumped on the internet… on the dark web. Ring were quick to respond to this and they said that it wasn’t a direct hack: it was more of a credential stuffing type attack, but nonetheless it wasn’t a good look for Ring, and what happened at the start of 2020 is that Ring actually launched a few new app features to actually help people safeguard their privacy and their security, and to get more visibility of this as well via the app. So today’s video just looks at these different features, let’s take a look.

Okay so I’ll launch the Ring app now. The first thing I wanted to look at – instead of looking at device level privacy features for specific cameras – is the actual control center, here in the menu, which was launched after the Ring data breach. Although they – sort of – denied it, they launched this not long after, so either the feature was in development anyway or it’s a bit of a coincidence. Uhm, the first option is account verification, and this requires additional account verification when you log in, or if you speak to somebody from customer support. So the first thing is two-step verification, which is great. You can either get a text message – or SMS – message to your mobile phone (or your cell phone), or you can you get an email which is what I’ve got. So when I log into my account, you actually get an email that comes up and asks you to enter a six digit code. Also in addition to that, you’ve got this customer support verification. So when you’re actually speaking to somebody, they’ll actually ask you to go into your app and generate this code down here. Let’s do that now… generate code… and then you’ll give that to the… the member of staff that you’re actually speaking to, and it verifies this is actually you – or at least you’re in control of this app.

Now let’s go back to the control center: next up in the control center is authorized client devices, to manage the phones, tablets and computers that’re authorized to log in to your Ring account. And as you can see there’s different… it keeps track, basically, of who and what devices are logged into your – or have logged into your – Ring account. And hence have been authorized as part of the two-factor authentication. So you can see I’ve logged in quite a lot on Windows and Linux (because I dual boot Windows and Linux)… that’s me… and it tells me the date and the time – or the date, sorry – that the authorization happened as well, which is good. And you can see it’ll either tell you you’ve logged in through the website, or logged into the Ring app as well, which is pretty good, and it also tells you this particular device that’s logged in and when you last authorized it. So that’s useful. Now one of the annoying things… the reason I keep coming to the menu is that if you actually click the hardware or the software back button on your computer [phone]… it takes you to your home screen again, which is pretty annoying. Hopefully they’ll fix that at some point. Uhm… that shouldn’t have happened. What’s happening?

In the Ring app, sometimes you do get a back button here and you actually have to click that otherwise you’ll keep going back to your home page, which is a bit irritating. Okay so next thing on the control center is linked accounts. So this is if you’ve linked to any third-party applications, for example Alexa: I’ve linked it to Amazon’s smart home program. Anything like that is listed here, and this is really useful because it… if you’ve – you know – you linked your Ring account to some third-party integration ages ago, and you forgot about it, they’d still actually have access to manage your account, which obviously isn’t good, and it will be listed here and then all you’d need to do is actually click on the delete button and you can actually delete that link (so that third-party integration can no longer manage your Ring account or access parts of your Ring account). This is really worth checking this… this screen, if you haven’t done it before, definitely go in and have a look because – you know – it… you could have linked it to a third party without actually realizing. Okay so next up in the control center is shared users. It says per location, and you can see here it’s listed me and then it shows that I’ve actually shared… umm… access to the Ring account with someone else, and it’s showing exactly what I’ve linked as well, so you can see here they say that I’ve linked both of my cameras, and I’ve actually I’ve granted them access to the app as well. If I don’t want this anymore, I can stop that. I’ll just remove this user. This is a pretty good feature overall, and again if you’ve never checked this out, it’s worth coming into the screen and just double checking that everything looks correct.

Uhm, next up… let’s click back… so the next thing is video management. This is also quite a useful feature. So there’s two – sort of – elements to this screen. The first one is shared video management… oh there we are, finally, it did actually work – it just took quite a long time! Okay so this is a clip I shared with somebody back in July and as a result I think… it’s some kid jumping in front of a car and they had to break, which isn’t ideal… but this is because I shared it in back in July it’s actually stored this here. You know, it hasn’t deleted this clip as per the usual 30 or 60 day timeline that Ring usually adheres to. In the UK it’s 30 days before they delete a clip, but it saves it longer than this. but if I no longer want to share this clip or – you know – with the actual person I’ve shared it with, what I can do is click into the event and… it doesn’t do anything… you can instead click on manage events – it’s a really bad interface – you can then select what you want to delete, and click delete. Before you do that you can also download, so this is pretty useful, and you can just manage all your shared events through here, so that is pretty useful.

Right so I’ll go back into video management now. So the next thing is video storage time, and this is actually per camera so this is actually showing you how long you can keep your recorded clips for. And if you’re in america this would default to 60 days, in the UK it defaults to 30 days, but then – as you can see – you can actually decrease the amount of time you store things. So if you only wanted to store clips for seven days you can do that as well, and this is pretty good from a privacy perspective if you know that… when your cameras (such as my front doorbell) is going to capture a lot of information, you might want to decrease the amount of time that video clips are actually stored. Uhm, just so you’ve only got… you know, to protect your neighbor’s privacy, in essence. So we’ll go into that… we go back back again. Okay next up then is privacy information at the bottom, and it’s pretty much a privacy statement. But it’s not written in – sort of – legalese, this is fairly normal terminology – you know – fully understandable English, which is good. Saying customer trust is paramount… we value your privacy and data security… what do you expect from us… yada yada. So it’s all I mean… I’m – sort of – joking around a bit, but actually it’s quite useful that they given this information and and – you know – there’s a bit of a debate about how secure or – you know – the privacy of Ring.

Some people don’t think it’s very good from a privacy perspective, even with this – sort of – statement, but at least it’s good that they give this information and tell you that they do take things completely seriously. Let’s go back… because there’s no back button there… and finally: third party service providers. We don’t sell your personal information to anyone. Learn more. And then first thing you see when you come into the screen (which is a bit concerning) is you’ve opted into personalized advertising, which I haven’t actually done. Because I live in the European Union – you know – like pretty sure under GDPR they’re not actually allowed to opt you in to things like that by default. I might be wrong, so don’t quote me on that, but either way it tells you all you need to know there about the personalized advertising. It also says that as part of using Ring’s… the Ring site… you get some essential cookies that have have to be used – you can’t opt out of that – because you can’t use the Ring site otherwise.

But the main thing is it’s good that you’ve actually got this option under the control center, or all these options, because it’s really good to just know exactly what – you know – who you’ve linked to your account with who you’ve shared things with, what – sort of – third-party adverts you have, and what’s third party options you’ve got and everything else. So the control center’s a really good idea, and as I mentioned before if you’ve never checked this, it’s worth just going in and checking it at least once, going through all the screens because it does contain some really useful information. Okay so as you can see everything on this screen, apart from video management is more at the account level, it’s not the device. We’ve also got some really useful privacy options per device as well. So if you go to your devices, you can see I’ve got different… one my different ones listed here. I’ve got doorbell and I’ve also got a camera. And basically if I go into each one… device settings… privacy settings… you can see I’ve actually got an option [mumbles] just drop myself in there. So you can actually see I’ve got options to disable audio and recording. So this is quite good for protecting your neighbor’s privacy if you find – like in my case – that actually my Ring doorbell is quite close to the pavement (sidewalk), then you can actually turn off the audio recording so that people – so they actually it doesn’t record your neighbor’s conversations anymore.

The next thing you can do is actually have privacy zones. So if your Ring camera is pointing at – let’s go into it – right, so privacy zones is all about if your Ring camera is pointing at a particular neighbor… neighbor’s property, and you don’t want – what they don’t want that recorded, what you can actually do is click on the plus and you can actually draw a little privacy zone. Click on done, and it’ll actually completely blank out that footage going forward. Uhm, so in any recordings that’ll be completely utterly blanked out, which is a really good way of actually – you know – protecting your neighbors.

If you ever wanted to delete that, you come in here, you click on the privacy zone again, and up here you click on the little trashcan icon, and click delete privacy zone. It’s a really nice feature, really easy to do, yeah really good feature. That – this feature – is actually offered on your different Ring devices, so this is a Ring camera. If we go to privacy settings, you’ll again see you’ve got audio streaming and recording. You’ve got that option, and you’ve got privacy zones again. So I could go in to add privacy zones, and you know stop recording a particular bit of my garage. Obviously in this case it doesn’t make sense to do that, [but] you’ve still got that option which is nice. I’ll just delete that. “If you ever move this camera make sure you update its privacy zones”. that’s a handy warning as well because obviously if you reposition your camera that privacy zone will track to a particular point, which you might not want, and it’ll start blanking out some useful footage.

Uhm, so it’s just giving you that warning that you might need to actually change that. you don’t get that warning on your Ring doorbells because your Ring doorbell will actually be screwed into place -or secured into place – so it just didn’t give me that warning, but it seems to do that on the Ring… on the Ring camera… or this Ring Indoor Camera anyway. Uhm, and that’s it really. So you’ve got your device level privacy settings where you can turn off the audio and you can draw privacy zones (and you draw multiple as well), and then you’ve got the general control center, which is more at the account level, and both are really good. It’s nice that Ring have started pushing this because they came under a lot of criticism at the end of 2019, so it’s nice that they’ve actually got these features.

Okay that wraps up today’s video. I hope you found it useful! If you did, please click the thumbs up button and don’t forget to subscribe. Thank you!

About Tristan Perry

Tristan Perry is a software developer who is passionate about tech gadgets, DIY and housing. He has therefore loved seeing smart homes hit the mainstream. Tristan also has an academic background (in Math & Computer Science), and so he enjoys digging into the technical ways that smart home devices work.

Tristan owns close to a dozen Amazon Echo devices, way too many Philips Hue bulbs and lightstrips, a boat-load of Ring Cameras and Doorbells... and a bunch of other smart home devices too (from Reolink, Google Nest, GLEDOPTO and others).

If you have any questions, feedback or suggestions about this article, please leave a comment below. Please note that all comments go into a moderation queue (to prevent blog spam). Your comment will be manually reviewed and approved by Tristan in less than a week. Thanks!

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