Is your doorbell selling your life secrets?

Amazon-owned Ring, the market leader in video doorbells and maker of smart home security cameras, is in the news with a string of stories that beg for the dots to be joined.

Most recently, Ring’s partnership with US police departments has raised concerns over privacy, misuse of data and fears that “Amazon is building a privately run, for-profit surveillance state”. [1] See here, here, here and here for more information.

The company says it “does not use facial recognition technology”, but it has a Head of Face Recognition Research.

And, back in June, it was caught using customers’ video footage in its ads.

So, it’s worth pondering what your doorbell knows about your life.

Your doorbell knows you

If a family member falls seriously ill, your doorbell sees the steady flow of nurses and carers. The uniform that was once a sign of trust could now be a flag for marketing.

Regular visits from service engineers, pest control, florists or police? Your doorbell knows.

You could open your door to more than just a visitor. There’s an algorithm there, too.

After all, the people who come to your door are more public than the search history you’ve already surrendered.

And, Ring’s terms of service of generously broad. The company requires that:

“You hereby grant Ring and its licensees an unlimited, irrevocable, fully paid and royalty-free, perpetual, worldwide right to re-use, distribute, store, delete, translate, copy, modify, display, sell, create derivative works from and otherwise exploit such Shared Content for any purpose and in any media formats in any media channels without compensation to you.”

The UK version is here. The US version is here.

Google (which owns the popular Nest brand of security camera) has similarly broad terms:

When you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide licence to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes that we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.

How long before online ads reflect the visitors to your door?

It’s also worth noting that UK Government guidance on home security cameras states:

“you should make sure that the information recorded is used only for the purpose for which your system was installed.”

But, does that conflict with cloud providers’ terms of service?

Sales of home security cameras are booming

The UK market for Smart Home security devices is largest and fastest-growing in Europe. Data and research firm Statista estimates the UK market to be worth $0.51 billion in 2018 and set to grow at an annual rate of 20.8% between now and 2023.[2]

Of the UK’s 25 million homes, 2.2 million (one in eleven) has smart home security devices fitted. This is forecast to be 6.0 million (almost one in four) by 2023.

Many of these cameras use cloud storage. It makes camera hardware cheaper and easier to install. It also gives the benefit of having your video data stored offsite.

But, how much are we at risk of (once again) becoming the product rather than the customer?

Does the tech that protects your pad while you sleep, sell your secrets while you wake?

Photo by Juan Álvarez Ajamil on Unsplash


[1] Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, quoted on BBC (2019), Amazon Ring: Police tie-up criticised by anti-surveillance campaigners, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-49191005

[2] Statista (2019), Smart Home Report 2019 – Security, https://www.statista.com/outlook/digital-markets

More on forest bathing

Kurt Harden’s Cultural Offering has this on forest bathing and “nature prescriptions”:

Eventually, I started to be able to distinguish the tiny splashes of singular rain drops onto each delicate leaf, all weaving into the greater song of Mother Nature. I looked down and saw tiny ants scurrying to and from an ant hill as they carried bits of leaves and branches.

Cultural Offering’s post is here.

The underlying article (on the Daily Beast) is here.

We’ve previously discussed the wonders of forest bathing here, here and here.

Photo by Paul Gilmore on Unsplash

Steven Pinker’s inconvenient truths

Another great podcast from CapX’s Free Exchange series. In this episode, Steven Pinker discusses his recent book, Enlightenment Now.

It’s a fascinating book, but I confess I’ve been reading it all year. The takeaway is clear but the wealth of data takes time to digest. The book is worth the work, but this 30-minute podcast will give you the gist.

The podcast you can hear, here.

You can also get it on iTunes, here.

Photo credit: Rose Lincoln / Harvard University

Madsen Pirie on John Locke – @ASI

Last Thursday , 29th August, marked the birthday (in 1632) of John Locke.

The Adam Smith Institute’s Madsen Pirie writes a profile of the “father of liberalism” and his concept of constitutional government.

people eventually form civil governments through a contract to protect their rights. This is a two-way contract in which government has the duty to protect those rights, and loses the consent of the governed if it violates them.

As well as influencing England’s Bill of Rights…

Locke had major influence on the American Revolutionaries, and his ideas can be seen permeating both the Declaration of Independence and the first ten amendments to the Constitution that make up the Bill of Rights. He has been described by some as the intellectual foundation of government by consent, and is thus a major theoretician behind the institution of democratic elections that can give that consent.

Worth a read.

Image: By Godfrey Kneller, Portrait of John Locke (Hermitage).jpg (from arthermitage.org), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=110128

What you seek will take hard work

Yes, you can dream. You can devote hours to seeking hacks and work-arounds and short-cuts. You can refuse the call and distract yourself with the siren-call of the mundane: the lawn always needs cutting, there’s always more news to read, those books could be tidied and re-ordered.

But, in the end, there is no real escape.

The essential Nicholas Bate reminds us of the basics of Hard Work…

1. What you seek will take hard work.
2. There is no quick fix for health, publication nor financial security.
3. Hard work-once started-feels good.
4. …

Read the rest, here. Then get to work.

Photo by Jordan Whitfield on Unsplash

Worker engagement: not the 9-5 office employee

Harvard Business Review has charted research data from the ADP Research Institute on employee engagement around the world. It’s quite comprehensive and throws up a couple of interesting data points for fans (or sceptics) of non-traditional working models.

The overall finding is that around the world only 16% of workers are “fully engaged”, which seems surprisingly low.

However, those who work remotely are more engaged than their office-bound colleagues.

And, gig workers (i.e. sovereign professionals) on full-time projects are more engaged than traditional “permanent employees”.

The full analysis (with country and sector analyses) is on HBR.org, here.

Photo by Clark Young on Unsplash

A man sees in the world…

Steve Layman, in his “Checking in with…” series, gathers some inspiring quotes from Goethe:

A man sees in the world what he carries in his heart.

Find the others, here. Well worth a ponder.

I realise I know hardly anything about Goethe, other than Faust.

The above quote reminds me of Marcus (Meditations, 5.16): “for the soul becomes dyed with the colour of its thoughts.”

Image: Goethe in 1828, by Joseph Karl Stieler.