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Did You Know Popular Video Doorbells Are Equipped with Facial Recognition?

Jordan Arizmendi

The next time you arrive at a door that is equipped with a camera, as you glance into that lens, be cognizant that someone, somewhere could be analyzing your identity with facial recognition technology. Consumer Reports tested a number of security camera brands and video doorbells that offer facial recognition, such as Bosma, Blurams, Eve, Eufy, Google Nest, Logitech, Netatmo, and WeMo. Although the study concludes that such cameras are not connected to massive facial databases, hence, alone, they do not pose significant privacy concerns; however, they still can potentially invade our privacy.

The Amazon Ring Doorbell Pro, for example, interacts with Amazon Alexa to play prerecorded greetings to visitors, plus they can leave messages. However, Amazon recently admitted that there could be “emergency” instances, when police can get warrantless access to Ring devices without the owner’s permission. In that case, all it takes is a police officer’s skewed definition of the word “emergency” for them to gain access to one’s private videos. Amazon has also admitted to sharing user video with law enforcement.

Google Nest is a streaming service for all your home devices. Imagine possessing the ability to stream video content to any television, to instantly play a song on any speaker, and to view a photograph on any screen in your residence. For just $6 a month, Google Nest users can upgrade to Nest Aware, which adds indoor and outdoor security cameras.

With Nest Aware, every second filmed is saved online for 30 days. Users can go back through the footage to inspect any person that might have walked in front of that camera in the last month. However, a hardware-level feature in Nest Aware allows the device to distinguish faces. As a result, these home cameras can take a picture of the pizza delivery guy, run a facial recognition algorithm on the face, and obtain personal information on the unsuspecting guy for simply delivering a pizza.

Some home security cameras send the recorded facial recognition data to the manufacturers’ servers. As such confidential information drifts aimlessly through the cloud, a data broker can purchase it or a police officer can examine it. The fine print in the policies of cameras from Eufy and Google Nest explains that in the case of an “emergency,” any footage that a user records and saves in the cloud can be given to law enforcement without consent.   

Even cameras not equipped with facial recognition software can still infringe on our privacy. Amazon Ring cannot distinguish faces. But once Amazon hands over the footage captured on a Ring to law enforcement, they can analyze the footage with their own facial recognition software.

Big tech and law enforcement have a somewhat peculiar relationship. For example, according to a Vice report, Amazon is using police departments, like the one in Lakeland, Florida, to advertise its surveillance cameras. In return, the police department gets free Ring products, plus a chance to view footage from these cameras.

Clearview AI compiled a database of billions of facial images from the internet. A law enforcement agent uploads an image taken from a security camera and will find matches in this enormous facial database.

Big Tech and surveillance-state law enforcement are a perfect match made for a dystopian nightmare that’s increasingly become a reality. 

Sources: consumerreports.org; androidpolice.com; eff.org; vice.com

 

 

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