Dug Campbell

Protecting Your Digital Door

Given the choice, humans will always work harder to avoid losing property than they will to get more. So it’s unsurprising that technology is becoming increasingly in demand in this respect.

There’s a company called Ring that seems to be doing well for itself. Amongst other things, they make smart dooorbells which allow the home owner to not only see, but also hear and record what’s going on outside their front doors. Bye bye parcel delivery thieves. Hello app notifications that tell you when someone’s knocking on your door, trying to deliver a parcel.

You’ll be hardly surprised to hear that they were subsequently bought by Amazon…

But the reason I’ve come across them recently is because of a particularly dodgy practice that appears to have been going on. Yes, that’s right – this personal property surveillance system (which some people also use inside their homes) have been allowing other people to view strangers’ feeds.

Its a story that is depressingly familiarise. Company finds way to develop decent technology to serve a demand. Company decides to extend service to create a (‘neighbourhood watch’ type of) platform to build scale so individuals can share data between themselves. Company tries to automate with very basic identification techniques in order to tag objects. Process proves to be difficult and so is forced to rely on humas to do the brain-crushingly boring job of tagging masses of images by hand each day in an effort to teach/feed the machine. Resulting in free, unencrypted access for strangers associated with that company (in this case, in the Ukraine).

It’s not something new. People are increasingly attracted to technology in order to monitor their property in ways that weren’t possible before. Shame on you if you’re a parent in this modern day and age who doesn’t have a baby monitor (even if you have no idea how to secure it).

But still, it’s probably worth stopping and thinking before you sign up to these things. Taken as individual items, they may not cause harm directly to you. But the problem is that very few things exist as private islands purely for your benefit when it comes to personal technology these days.

Almost everything is, or soon will be, online. So every time you open that digital door to the outside world, just be very careful who you’re letting through it. You might not know who’s come through – but it’s worth bearing it in mind.