back to article Cop warrant orders Ring to cough up footage from inside this guy's home

Last year, around the Thanksgiving holiday, Ohio businessman Michael Larkin received a request for video from his Amazon Ring security system from Hamilton city police. He complied, providing video from his doorbell camera that was stored on Ring's servers. After balking at further demands, he subsequently learned that …

  1. General Purpose

    Meanwhile in London

    In a trial project in collaboration with University College London, the Metropolitan Police are offering free video doorbells.

    1. b0llchit Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Meanwhile in London

      It doesn't surprise me that people are actually this stupid. They bug themselves, have less privacy and as a result less security.

      Nobody remembers the Stasi any more, sigh.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Meanwhile in London

        You think the government of Airstrip One has the ability to keep the viewscreen servers running ?

        1. Wellyboot Silver badge

          Re: Meanwhile in London

          Government? maybe, maybe not

          Company with a profit motive? Absolutely

      2. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: Meanwhile in London

        They bug themselves

        That's the problem, they aren't bugging themselves. The cameras face away from their home, so they are bugging their neighbors, and their neighbors in turn are bugging them.

        If the cameras faced inwards no one would accept one for free from the cops or from anyone else.

        1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

          Re: Meanwhile in London

          If the cameras faced inwards no one would accept one for free from the cops or from anyone else.

          You really want to bet that? Really? After what folks will happily give up to Alexa, Siri, Facebook (in all its tentacles) , etc, for "free" entertainment?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: cameras face away frm home

          If you are in the USA and an UltraMAGA drone becomes the next POTUS, you will be mandated to have camera's inside your home just so the the GQP Stasi can make sure that

          1) no males wear womens clothing even inside their own home

          2) to check on the existence of 'the morning after pill'

          3) existence of any banned books especially ones like the biography of Dr M L King.

          4) and anything else they can think following the model that DeathSantis has put in place in Florida.

          The USA is becoming a shitshow that makes our own post-BREXIT shambles seem rather sane by comparison. At least here we don't have permitless carry of concealed guns.

          1. mpi Silver badge

            Re: cameras face away frm home

            And for everyone abroad who wants to install such things in their home:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CLOUD_Act

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Meanwhile in London

          > If the cameras faced inwards no one would accept one for free from the cops or from anyone else.

          Except in the article it talked about

          video from several of his Ring cameras, including one that covered an indoor area of his home.

          So in this case as well has his Ring door bell camera there were other Ring cameras at least one of which was facing inwards

          Lots of security systems have an option for cameras monitoring the inside of your building.

          I used to have a Yale alarm system in my office which had options for internal stills and video cameras, I had a stills camera. If the alarm went off it automatically took internal shots or I could connect to the app and take a photo.

          1. ChrisC Silver badge

            Re: Meanwhile in London

            Except the presumption here is that he himself purchased the cameras, including the one inside his home,so not the same scenario as mentioned by the comment you've replied to.

            Buying your own CCTV to setup indoors is a somewhat different proposition to being offered one for free, because for many people, the act of having to pay for something implies a greater level of trust over that something than if it's just being given away - leaving aside the whole question of just how trustworthy (or at least, security conscious) the system manufacturer themselves is which is something you ought to be asking yourself even when buying the system yourself, if someone is offering you a system for free then there's always going to be the "what's in it for them" question in the back of your mind. Why would someone want to give, not just you, but as many people as will accept it, a free CCTV system to use for monitoring the inside of your home...

        4. cyberdemon Silver badge
          Devil

          > If the cameras faced inwards no one would accept one for free from the cops or from anyone else.

          They are buying a fleet of mobile cameras inside homes

          Amazon also make Ring indoor CCTV cameras ...

      3. NoneSuch Silver badge

        Re: Meanwhile in London

        "You have the right to remain ignorant."

      4. el_oscuro
        Big Brother

        Re: Meanwhile in London

        Here on the other side of the pond, Republican states like Texas do remember the Stasi - and are trying to recreate it.

      5. eionmac

        Re: Meanwhile in London

        The internet would have been the Stasi's biggest dream. The card index systems worked but slowly, with a most useful phrase 'a disorderly sex life' on some cards.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Meanwhile in London

          So they had cards on Harvey?

      6. martinusher Silver badge

        Re: Meanwhile in London

        The Stasi were only notorious because they were 'them' rather than 'us' and they had rather comprehensive, cumbersome, methods for surveillance. We should learn from them, assuming that everyone else is doing the same unless proven otherwise. (For example, based on material that drips out in the UK over the decades it seems that the UK's security services are just as interested in dissidents as the Stasi were).

        I personally have no beef with the police looking at street --effectively public -- footage using my external cameras but inside, that's completely off the table. Amazon should push back against any attempt by a PD to use Amazon's products for surveillance because it will kill those products.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Old news

      They've done this several times before over the years.

      They've been deployed successfully elsewhere in the country to protect domestic abuse victims from the offender attending whilst on bail. They do work, of used with a purpose.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Old news

        I think you meant:

        They've been deployed successfully elsewhere in the country to protect domestic abuse victims from the officer attending

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Old news

          That's unfair. Many victims of crime haven't been spied on, assaulted or impregnated by undercover metropolitan police officers

          It was just a few officially sanctioned bad-apple operations run for decades from the 1970s to today

    3. tip pc Silver badge

      Re: Meanwhile in London

      not sure whats worse, the government spying on me or corporates spying on me.

  2. sev.monster

    What an absolute shocker

    Next you'll tell me that pigs fly.

    Oh dear.

  3. Shooter

    Home-brew to the rescue?

    https://www.vice.com/en/article/bvm5p8/users-are-building-their-own-ai-powered-alternatives-to-amazons-ring-cameras

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Home-brew to the rescue?

      There are already alternatives available.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Home-brew to the rescue?

        Mine is the one equipped with missiles for trespassers...

  4. Dimmer Silver badge

    And not just watching you.

    Honeywell

    “ Earn rewards. Protect the energy grid. All in one sign up.”

    When you connect your smart thermostat with your utility's Demand Response program, you could receive incentives like a gift card or an annual credit on your bill. In return, your utility may make minor adjustments during times of peak energy use. You likely won't notice the difference, while your neighborhood benefits from a stronger energy grid.”

    For those that signed up, “ You likely won't notice the difference”

    translates to “Freeze your a$$ off” and regardless of promises, you cannot override it.

    All for:

    Save with Re###

    With your Total Connect Comfort App

    Get a $25 bill credit for joining Degrees of Difference, a free and easy way to help reduce energy demand in your neighborhood.”

    1. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: And not just watching you.

      Its more about electricity saving during heatwaves. If you sign up for this program then you may find your thermostat raised to 78F (mid-20s C) during peak demand times. (We normally keep our A/C level around this figure anyway.) Our power delivery infrastructure is quite old and its difficult to upgrade so its either "use sparingly or go without".

      I don't know what the present situation in the UK is like but back in the bad old days of the CEGB and local Electricity Boards the supply was rock steady and reliable. It was quite a shock to move to a more advanced country where you really couldn't rely on the electricity staying up -- it usually did but could dip or even cut off at any time for no apparent reason. Demand increases, stuff gets old and is never updated, things wear out, you know how it is.

      1. I could be a dog really Bronze badge
        Facepalm

        Re: And not just watching you.

        I think we're trying hard to catch up with your more advanced country. We still (for the moment) have a stable grid, but our government is rapidly pushing rationing devicessmart meters on people to create demand side management which is effectively what the mentioned program is - reduce demand when it's too high to be met by the supply available. With the shift to unreliablesrenewables like wind, together with a massive push to shift loads such as heating to times when renewables aren't doing much when demand is highest, demand side management is going to be the only way to keep the lights on.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And not just watching you.

        Yeah, setting my thermostat to 78 is not going to happen.

        I much prefer the 62 I keep it set to during the winter, my concession to summer is setting it to 68. 10 degrees hotter and I'll be lying on the floor naked in a puddle of sweat.

  5. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

    Suspect behavior

    "that particular camera was disconnected during the period covered under the warrant."

    Guilty right there! I wish I were joking. Now he is under perpetual surveillance until they have enough evidence to charge him with whatever. Enabled encryption? Only guilty people would do that. Never bought a Ring camera? Definitely on the suspect list.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Suspect behavior

      I am so doomed: not only won't I have a Ring device on the premises, I won't have Alexa and its ilk. I'm not overly happy about what my phone gets up to, either... largely because I don't (and in practical terms, can't) know. But I live in ex-Stasi land, and people haven't forgotten here.

    2. The Central Scrutinizer

      Re: Suspect behavior

      Then colour me guilty of wanting to protect my privacy from predatory arseholes.

  6. alain williams Silver badge

    Video on Ring's servers is the problem

    If this was stored on a machine within the home they would be much more secure.

    It would mean a little more set up work on behalf of the home owner - which pretty much guarantees that very few would bother -- even if the likes of Ring provided the option.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Video on Ring's servers is the problem

      >If this was stored on a machine within the home they would be much more secure.

      Yes they would have to get a warrant to remotely access his home server, or maybe just turn up with a warrant - there might be all sorts of interesting stuff they can find, or just steal

      1. Is It Me

        Re: Video on Ring's servers is the problem

        The difference being that the owner gets to see the warrant and know what it being looked for/at

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Video on Ring's servers is the problem

          The other difference is the owner gets their home invaded by big booted cops sniffing everywhere and removing stuff from the home.

          But that’s ok because they saw the warrant.

          1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

            Re: Video on Ring's servers is the problem

            The reality is if people's homes were being invaded (with a warrant) frequently there would be a public outcry. By having the data obtained remotely there is no discussion at all, except by weirdos like us.

            1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

              Re: Video on Ring's servers is the problem

              "The reality is if people's homes were being invaded (with a warrant) frequently there would be a public outcry."

              I wish that were true everywhere. In the USA it is not true. The reality is it happens all the time in every city, but only in the most egregious cases where some poor moke is killed on his sofa is there any kind of outcry. Even that gets swept under the carpet pretty efficiently. There are so many ways to make it into "happening to them, not happening to us". Brown people? Shrug. Poor people? Shrug. Charged with a crime? Shrug. Innocent until proven guilty applies in a courtroom, and to my friends and family. All those people in the news? Shrug -- probably did it, the world is going downhill, innit?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Video on Ring's servers is the problem

                That's not entirely true. It's still localized, but it's happened enough times in Atlanta that they're finally burning pigmobiles and bulldozers.

                A lot of Americans are sick of this shit.

            2. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

              Re: Video on Ring's servers is the problem

              if you send the police to any home, given enough time they will find incriminating evidence linking you to the murder of Caesar...

      2. jmch Silver badge

        Re: Video on Ring's servers is the problem

        "Yes they would have to get a warrant to remotely access his home server, or maybe just turn up with a warrant "

        A warrant would typically be very specific about what they want to access, and is concerned only with the result. Any decent lawyer could get a request for remote access shot down really quick, as well as any warrant asking for large chunks of data. A 'proper' warrant (for an incident as described in the article, outside of the home and for which the home owner was not a person under suspicion / investigation) would say something like 'all data showing such-and-such area between this and that time of such-and-such date'.

        Of course many people would be too scared and/or ignorant to 'lawyer up'

        1. Graybyrd
          Angel

          Re: Video on Ring's servers is the problem

          "A warrant would typically be very specific about what they want to access, and is concerned only with the result. "

          Ummm... more typically it goes something like this: any cop shop worth their donuts has a 'friendly' judge on call.

          _Yer honor, we need a warrant or three, we got's a drug op going."

          _Is this gonna bounce back on me, officer Jones?_

          _No way, Judge, we're good on this."_

          _"Okay. The clerk has some pre-signed. Don't take more than six. We're low on forms."_

          Easy-peasy. And if the cops run out of warrants, they can always lie about having one. Flash a paper.

          (The result of a misspent life reading too many news articles here in the U.S.)

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Video on Ring's servers is the problem

      > If this was stored on a machine within the home they would be much more secure

      But that is not the cloud subscription model.

      This case was going to happen, given the precedence over US access to data in say Microsoft Ireland’s data centre, once your data is on someone else’s computer then as far as law enforcement and other agencies are concerned it is that organisations data, so no need to get consent.

      What is perhaps surprising is that Ring actually notified the customer of the police access request. Expect in future such data access requests to require non-disclosure.

      1. el_oscuro

        Re: Video on Ring's servers is the problem

        On option is Blink (which is unfortunately also owned by Amazon). They try to push you towards a cloud subscription of course, but also have a local storage option which I use.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Video on Ring's servers is the problem

      Err less secure actually. Instead of a warrant to access your cloud account, the bacon would knock at your door with a warrant to search your entire house.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Video on Ring's servers is the problem

        Unlikely, unless you are the actual suspect. The whole point of this type of data access is that one officer can get the warrant and examine the video from multiple cameras on that street or area from the comfort of their own desk. If they had to go door knocking to find out who might have video and then potentially have to get a warrant for each and every address, they'd simply not bother, or be far more targetted in what "evidence" they go after.

        I'd imagine that if a cop knocked on your door and explained what they were looking for at x'o'clock on the nth of Octember, most people would probably allow them in to look at the video for the specified date and time from the relevant cameras. But that takes manpower and co-operation and therefore money. It's so much cheaper to get a warrant served on Ring for the address of the burglary or whatever and everything in a one mile radius

        1. Brian 3

          Re: Video on Ring's servers is the problem

          No. You NEVER allow the cops into your house!!!! That is LITERALLY the same as permission to search your house. They don't even need a warrant at that point. You let them in!

          1. Persona

            Re: Video on Ring's servers is the problem

            Whilst I wouldn't give a toss about the police grabbing my Ring doorbell footage from Ring (not that I have a video doorbell) I agree with you about not letting the police in.

            If a police man asks to come inside and have a chat my immediate response would be to grab my coat and say "it's ok we can talk out here."

            Similarly were I ever to be arrested I would first request and then read a copy of the document explaining my rights. If I was feeling particularly awkward I might ask for the "Easy Read" version too followed some time later by PACE Codes C,D and F.

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Video on Ring's servers is the problem

            "That is LITERALLY the same as permission to search your house."

            No, it LITERALLY isn't. They ask if you have something specific and you invite them in then that's all they are there for. If they happen to notice your coke stash sitting on the coffee table or your "pot" plants on the windowsill or all the electrical goods still in boxes all around the room, then that's your own fault for inviting them in. Unless they already have a reason to suspect you of something, they have no need or reason to go wandering about your house, opening drawers and cupboards and are not allowed to. The act of inviting a Police Officer into your home DOES NOT give them the right to search it "just because". They need a reason usually called "reasonable suspicion", ie a genuine justification, at which point you are a suspect anyway and they WILL come back with a warrant. Unless they can later show a real concern that evidence may be removed or destroyed in the meantime or an immediate threat of harm to others within the property and barge their way in. And they WILL have to justify that. But that's a highly unlikely scenario extension to my original scenario.

            On the other hand, what you say may be the case in the country you live in. In the UK it is definitely not proper procedure nor is it the norm.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Video on Ring's servers is the problem

          Yeah and if you hand over the footage for 3 out of the 4 cameras on the front of your house because one of them wasn't recording for some reason, rather than the cops assuming "yeah, maybe the camera was broken", you get added to a list of suspected accessories to the crime. Fuck that.

          Better off not having cameras. They do not deter crime, if anything they probably attract it...because loads of cameras might signify something of high value within.

          I've heard many stories from burglars over the years on various documentaries and such and they themselves say that a sign outside your house that says "protected by X alarm system" has a higher probability of attracting them to your house than deterring them away because it's free information they otherwise wouldn't have...compared to other houses that *might* have alarms fitted, they know for sure that yours does and what it probably is, which gives them time to work out how to disable it before they rob you.

    4. jmch Silver badge

      Re: Video on Ring's servers is the problem

      "If this was stored on a machine within the home they would be much more secure."

      The capabilities of a modern NAS can surely cope with that. There's always a trade-off (what happens if a local fire or flood destroys your data?) between on-site and off-site. Encryption by default of offsite data would work except that surely there would be many many consumers pissed-off at not being able to access their backed-up data because they forgot their own password

    5. teebie

      Re: Video on Ring's servers is the problem

      Less secure against a burglar stealing the footage though.

  7. chivo243 Silver badge
    Stop

    Another tick in the NO column...

    *See Title*

    The Yes column is pretty barren.

  8. HKmk23

    Ha ha ha ha

    Bugs himself then complains............

    1. ChrisC Silver badge

      Re: Ha ha ha ha

      Interesting way of saying "takes reasonable steps to improve his home security, and rightly gets a bit miffed when the local fuzz can't be arsed to politely ask the neighbourhood if they wouldn't mind helping them out with any external CCTV footage from such and such a date/time, and just go on a trawling exercise that pulls in WAY more data than they should ever have been entitled to"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ha ha ha ha

        IP based is not CCTV unless the acronym now means Cloud Captured TeleVision

        1. ChrisC Silver badge

          Re: Ha ha ha ha

          Oh? Tell that to all the people running IP systems on their own private air-gapped networks...

          As far as security camera systems which do make use of third-party networks/servers for transfer/storage of the footage, then sure, things do get a little more fuzzy (and not just because you've selected too low a stream bitrate), because whilst you no longer have a closed-circuit at the physical level, you can still create a virtual closed-circuit which provides the same level of access control as a physical one. Whether you take the time to set it up to behave like that is another matter however.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Ha ha ha ha

          "IP based is not CCTV..."

          It is if that network has no WAN access, a lot of the DiY OSS setups start with this. An IP network works via an electrical circuit (P/G) in a closed loop (Tx/Rx)... it's not magic.

          Still, one major disadvantage with IP based CCTV is that it involves a computer. However, I'm not sure at which resolution you can record to/from in a analog tape based system. Furthermore, what cameras are analog CCD anymore... not many if any.

  9. terry 1
    Trollface

    So.....

    If I set up a camera looking at a photo of drugs, cash etc and the police come and bash the door in, can I be arrested for wasting police time??? ;-\

    1. MiguelC Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: So.....

      You would probably be shot first, and *then* they would make up some arrestable offence to take you in.

      Cynic? Moi?

  10. ComputerSays_noAbsolutelyNo Silver badge
    Holmes

    Cameras gonna camera

    What use is a surveillance camera if not for proper surveillance?

  11. AbeSapian

    Time to Revise Their Corporate Structure

    It looks like most of Ring's corporate structure can now be replaced by a bunch of tech savvy lawyers. I suspect all they'll be doing from now on is processing search warrants.

  12. Plest Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Now I know I made the right choice

    I love tech, all good fun having APIs on your house lighting system but I never wanted an Alexa and I never wanted a RING, despite the world and his wife nailing them up on their doors all over my small town. My tech stays inside my house, including my CCTV system which has no external connectivity.

    We have a temporary wireless "nanny cam" we set up for the cat when we're away from home, and it points as his litter tray basically filming his "doings" so we know he's "regular" while we're away!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Now I know I made the right choice

      Soooo beastiality scat pron? Yer a dirty wanker aincha?

  13. Grogan Silver badge

    If I had surveillance cameras they would be saving the footage locally to a PC (they'd be wired too, because I'm old fashioned like that) and the cops would have to crawl up my ass and die to get it.

    1. Politically Correct

      You save your data to an NAS nowadays. I'm puzzled by how the Fuzz even knew there were cameras. I can access mine remotely but through a private server that they would never discover.

    2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      ...strange place to keep your PC!

  14. Tron Silver badge

    Every breath you take, every move you make...

    The internet has already been repurposed as a system of state surveillance. They will ban TikTok because they don't want to put their spyware on the servers of a Chinese company.

    The pivot to digital and the use of apps, digital money instead of banknotes. Dashcams. Doorbell cams. Social media. GPS on your mobile device. They know absolutely everything about you 24/7/365. They can remember it for you wholesale. Maybe if we get dementia we can try a FoI request to recover some of our lives from them.

    Sorry Sir Tim - your Oppenheimer moment may be inevitable.

    1. Marty McFly Silver badge

      Re: Every breath you take, every move you make...

      Your factual comment really Stings. If only we had the authority to Police this situation.

  15. Bear

    This conversation is long overdue. I was happy when I saw an article in the February 2018 of National Geographic which tracked the increase of video surveillance, particularly in London.

    One of the good points brought up was that it happened very organically, and there was no policy debate or other discussion about the proliferation of private and public cameras. Then London found itself the most surveilled city in the world - although I am sure that many others have caught up.

    This should cause a wider policy discussion and will hopefully end up with an appropriate way to use cameras and surveillance in general.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ring ring

    He’s guilty Guvna!

    How so, Constable?

    He got blood all over my baton, sir.

  17. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    "This should cause a wider policy discussion and will hopefully end up with an appropriate way to use cameras and surveillance in general."

    And I heard the Devil is making a snow man...

  18. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

    Ahem

    That's Hamilton!, Ohio, with the exclamation point. Which really tells you most of what you need to know about Hamilton!.

    (I know, I know. Email corrections.)

    But of course this is the point. Enjoy-your-symptom surveillance will be abused by law enforcement in small jurisdictions at least as eagerly as it will be in large ones. And the small ones are the ones more likely to be conducting personal vendettas. The NSA doesn't care about you personally, but you might have rubbed a local sheriff's deputy the wrong way. Yet many people happily sign up, and indeed pay, for the privilege of being surveilled.

    It's not Nineteen Eighty-Four; it's Brave New World.

  19. This Side Up

    Encryption

    Surely if the video is encrypted it can be decrypted again, otherwise what's the point? Encryption only protects the link between the camera and the server.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Encryption

      With end-to-end encryption enabled, no one but the camera’s owner can access recorded footage. Even if law enforcement asked Ring, or its parent company Amazon, for the video, they couldn't provide it. Only the enrolled mobile device can unlock the video.

      By default, Ring encrypts video and audio recordings when they’re uploaded to the cloud and while stored on Ring’s servers. End-to-end encryption ups the levels of security, giving only the device owner access to and control of their footage on one designated device and with a passphrase only they have.

  20. Politically Correct

    I've just finished a stint on Grand Jury in NYC. Almost every single one of the 100 cases we dealt with used private cameras outside shops that had nothing to do with the crime being investigated. Footage was requested and handed over without hesitation. The police have dedicated tech departments that knit the footage together to provide evidence of the drug sale or whatever and then arrest both buyers and sellers using facial recognition.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like