At the end of January, Ring announced a privacy and security app update to make it easier for users to manage their cameras and footage. The update appears to be a two-pronged response to recent bad press for the home security company. In the past year, Ring came under fire for security camera hijackings and unprecedented partnerships with local police.
Ring faced significant media scrutiny over the past year, notably in Motherboard’s expose of the home security company’s police contracts and reported algorithmic bias. With this last security update, Ring is courting its critics. The company released a preview of the update to a Gizmodo-associated Ring account.
The update itself is fairly low-lift. The Amazon-owned company has added an easy-access security dashboard to its app. This new control center largely consolidates security options that Ring already offered, but users had to hunt down, like two-factor authentication. That security setting sends a push notification for approval to a trusted device when you log in.
Two-factor authentication is the best security measure currently available for smart devices. Smart home tech that seamlessly joins networks and communicates across devices is vulnerable to hacking almost by design. Hackers can prey upon weakly secured tech in a number of different ways (such as by scavenging credentials from security breaches), but user behavior can either help or hinder their efforts. Weak and default passwords, and failing to manually turn on 2FA, are at the root of the evil.
By centralizing once-hidden safety settings like 2FA, Ring is making it easier for users to protect themselves. (For new users, turning on two-factor authentication will be part of setup.) Reassuringly, the security dashboard also shows all authorized devices, any of which you have the power to boot out.
One tab for all things security is a sensible design solution. But the dashboard’s most impactful feature may be its disclosure of local police partnerships. If you live in the jurisdiction of one of the over 600 police agencies participating in Ring’s program, through which police can request homeowner footage, the organization will be listed by name.
And while prior to the update, Ring users were able to opt out of the police program only after a police request had been made, now users can preemptively manage whether police can contact them.