Ring doorbells are a nice concept. Homeowners can monitor what’s happening outside their walls without having to move. Video captures movement outside the door even before someone presses a button. The videos, capturing life outside homes around the world, are stored — for your convenience — in the Amazon cloud, connected to your username and password, as well as your home’s geolocation information.
So when a big company like Amazon Web Services (AWS) finds out there was a leak, you should be worried. “Data leaks” don’t just affect the big guys. When a company doesn’t use appropriate security measures, real people’s information could get sold. Imagine a hacker suddenly able to see that you had an expensive package arrived yesterday. The hacker knows your address, your house’s security features, and, maybe, exactly what you have now accepted into your home. Scared of a break-in?
Ring, of course, denied that there was any “leak” or wrongdoing (Haskins). But how can they know for sure?
Data leaks can have even more dire consequences when they affect a larger scale. Consider the range of data leaks that have exposed governmental plans and actions. On the one hand, citizens in a democracy want to know what their government is doing, sure. But some actions of the government are purposely kept away from the public’s eye in order to preserve the safety and success of, say, military operations.
For a recent example, the BBC reported in October 2019 that highly sensitive U.S. military strategy had been leaked. The same leak included information about civilian travel. It’s clear that when government systems are leaked, all citizens are in more danger. There is a reason that certain documents or procedures are marked “confidential,” and it often is not related to domestic politics, but rather to protect military personnel or civilians abroad who may be endangered through a leak of information.
To combat these growing trends of leaked information or data, some information-holding companies may begin to use employee monitoring software to determine whether employees have properly protected sensitive data. These systems can expertly capture everything that employees in an organization do through on computer computers or with company servers. Highly technical employee monitoring systems can even capture entire videos of an employees day-to-day actions on a computer. These systems are high tech and high surveillance. Is it worth it?
On the one hand, it is tempting to say that this is a helpful strategy to prevent possible data loss through employees looking to profit on the side. However, it is also alarming for employees in those companies. Imagine being an employee and knowing that your every move — every click to Facebook to distract yourself, every wasted moment, caught by screen-video recording! Understandably, there is likely to be significant pushback against detailed monitoring of employee actions. Yet, if these software can prove to truly decrease the likelihood that private and confidential information gets sold or stolen, it might be worth it.
Hopefully, as technology continues to change, our ability to counter data and information leaking will likewise improve.
Haskins, Caroline. “A Data Leak Exposed The Personal Information Of Over 3,000 Ring Users.” BuzzFeed News, BuzzFeed News, 23 Dec. 2019, www.buzzfeednews.com/article/carolinehaskins1/data-leak-exposes-personal-data-over-3000-ring-camera-users.