Talk to just about anyone and they’ll agree that the privacy of their personal information is of the utmost importance. From using complex passwords, keeping important documents locked up and encrypted, and even using special wallets to prevent skimming, it’s easy to see that people go to great lengths to ensure the security of their personal information.
The privacy of our personal information is also highly important when it comes to the data from our smart home devices such as our cameras. No one wants someone they don’t know to have access to their data or video recordings – like that living room rock concert for one from last week!
For those that operate Wyze devices, this was actually a reality at one point! A few years ago, there were very convincing rumors that Wyze was sending important data about YOU, overseas to China. These rumors became substantiated, leading the company to take action.
So now many wonder; does Wyze still send data and videos to China?
What is Wyze?
When people think of Wyze, they typically think of the popular indoor and outdoor smart home cameras. While they do make some of the most affordable and intuitive smart cameras available today, Wyze is a smart home product manufacturer that also makes a host of other products – many that people aren’t aware of.
For example, their line of products includes smart lighting such as light strips, smart bulbs, and floor lamps. They also have cordless vacuums, smart plugs, and even a Home Monitoring Service akin to the Ring Alarm!
Wyze also makes a plethora of other smart home products for every aspect of daily living, and even wearable technology such as smart watches.
All of these devices are connected to and controlled via the Wyze app that you can download onto your smartphone or tablet:
Wyze products have gained popularity because of their low price point, while still offering a lot of the features that other, pricier, smart home products do.
Where is Wyze Produced?
Like most of the items we use these days, they’re manufactured in China. Some have speculated that this is what contributes to their low price point – and possibly even some data privacy conflicts.
However, before you write off Wyze because of this, it’s important to remember that a lot of our other smart home cameras and products (as well as practically everything else we use!) are also made or at least assembled, in China.
Take Ring for example. Though the company is based in Santa Monica, California, their cameras and products are assembled in China – it says so right on the box!
It isn’t so much the fact that a product is made in China that can be of concern – it’s the quality control and monitoring of said assembly.
Many manufacturers outsource the assembly and production of certain items to China for different reasons, including lower production costs. However, when it comes to quality control and safety, the companies themselves take great care to make sure that everything is safe, operational, and made according to their standards.
Who owns Wyze?
Wyze Labs, Inc. (formerly known as Wyzecam, Inc.) is based in Kirkland, Washington.
For a while, it was a common thought that Wyze was owned by Amazon, but it was actually a company founded in 2017 by former Amazon employees. However, the company itself is not owned by Amazon.
There is a correlation between Wyze and Amazon, however. This is in terms of Amazon Web Services, or AWS – Amazon’s cloud computing platform. Wyze Labs works with AWS to ensure faster and higher quality video streaming for their users, especially those who use the features of the subscription service, CAM Plus.
Using AWS has other advantages for Wyze as well. For example, by using not only AWS Storage (S3) services, but also AWS IoT Core and Amazon Kinesis Video Streams, Wyze has been able to have their devices operate more efficiently and reduce engineering costs. They’ve also been able to increase production speed to get more products onto the market faster and get their devices to stream video at a much more efficient rate than if they used all their own servers.
What data does Wyze store about you?
In lieu of the data leak that happened with Wyze in December of 2019, this question is even more on the minds of Wyze users.
This data leak occurred when the information of over 2.4 million customers was exposed. The cause? When switching information over to a different database, a Wyze employee accidentally removed certain security protocols that were in place. The result was the data leak.
However, Wyze took swift action, and has since rectified the situation. Still, many wonder what kind of data leaked, and is that information still accessible to Wyze and their employees now?
It stands to reason that some of the data that’s stored are video recordings, as well as location information. If you happen to have a Wyze Cloud plan, or CAM Plus, this information is also uploaded to the Cloud for backup so that you can access it at a later date. You can only access the data up to 14 days though, after which it’s permanently deleted.
However, what about credit card numbers, addresses, phone numbers, and other personal information? These are no doubt stored in the Wyze app and backend software to help your smart devices work better according to location and to facilitate automatic billing for Cloud plans.
Wyze reassures their customers that they cannot access this information at will. If there was an extreme case such as something that requires court-ordered intervention, Wyze would still have to reach out to you for permission to access this information, as well as request access to said information.
The account information stored by Wyze is stored in Wyze’s databases, and your data is end-to-end encrypted. Equally your personal information should only be made available to Wyze’s employees on a need-to-know basis, and to people who have the login credentials to access the account (i.e. hopefully just you!).
Does Wyze send data to China?
While it’s been speculated, with many lines of evidence backing it up (i.e. IP addresses), that they used to do so, the consensus is that they don’t do so anymore.
Several years ago, most notably in 2017, some Wyze customers noted that information was being sent to IP addresses overseas from their Wyze app. These places overseas included Germany, Japan, as well as China. This was very unsettling to people – and with good reason! Why would the company need to send personal data – or data of any kind for that matter, overseas?
Wyze stepped in to allay the fears of their customers and reassure them that no personal information was being sent out to China, or anywhere else for that matter. They ensured consumers that any data sent overseas was related to routing through servers to save customer videos to the cloud, and that their personal information was still secure.
The jury is still out on this one if they had ever sent personal information. However, it’s well-known that they don’t currently. Any information about their customers that’s sent is via encrypted channels in the AWS framework, and is only accessible to the customer – no one else…and definitely no one in China.
Can Wyze record locally without Wi-Fi?
While it is possible, it usually comes with limited functionality. There a couple of ways you can do this. One is via Travel mode with the Wyze Outdoor cams. Travel mode doesn’t use Wi-Fi, and nothing is sent to the Cloud – only recorded locally to your device. You would, however, need to enable Travel Mode while the Wi-Fi is active, and if Travel Mode is disengaged, the videos would soon upload to the outdoor cams’ Base Station.
In terms of the indoor cams, if you have an SD card inserted, and there is no Wi-Fi, the camera will continuously record to the SD card. Once the card becomes full, the oldest videos will be overwritten as the camera continues to record.
However, without Wi-Fi, you sacrifice the motion alerts and other configurations available in the Wyze app, leaving you with continuous videos of well, just about anything.
While the allegations that Wyze has sent data overseas are unsettling, as well as their data breach back in 2019, the fact of the matter is, they’ve taken the necessary steps to make sure that these incidences don’t happen again. Wyze knows that consumers don’t take personal data breaches lightly, and neither do they.
They take every measure possible to make sure that your data is safe, encrypted, and not in the hands of someone who could possibly misuse it. Wyze seems to have learned from their mistakes, and is now providing top-notch security along with their competitors.