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How to protect your Ring Doorbell Video.

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Accessed on 19 July 2022, 1951 UTC.

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PCMag SecurityWatch
Knock Knock: 3 Ways to Protect Your Ring Doorbell Video
I recently moved from a large bustling city to a small quiet town. Life is much slower here; the nightlife winds down at dusk, the local bowling alley is the main attraction, and most people get around town in golf carts. There hasn't been a violent crime reported in at least five years. Still, the houses are nevertheless protected by an array of smart home security cameras and alarm systems.

I never subscribed to a home security system in the city because my home was 20 stories in the air, with physical and electronic locking mechanisms on every floor between me and anyone who could physically harm me. Seeing all of these security systems around my new neighborhood has me wondering: Can you really trust Ring or any other home security company with video of yourself, your kids, or anyone else on your property?

After all, security companies struggle to protect their customers' privacy, as we learned in the 2021 case of an ADT technician who exploited the company's security cameras to spy on clients having sex in their homes.

It’s worth it to take a few steps to ensure your video doorbell only works for you, not against you. 


Is Cracking Down on Petty Crimes Worth the Privacy Risks?

A video doorbell may help deter porch bandits, but there are a few ways it can pose a serious security risk. First, the obvious: Someone could hack your doorbell. In 2019, hackers harassed and spied on three families using their Ring doorbells. The culprits were able to crack the passwords for the Ring customers' accounts and hijack the devices. To avoid the fallout from an inevitable data breach, it's best to secure your smart home security account with multi-factor authentication and use a strong, unique password stored in a password manager.

The second security issue involves the potential abuse of personal data collected by your smart home security camera. In 2020, Ring found itself in hot water after a privacy group called the Electronic Frontier Foundation discovered that the company was sending customer data to third parties without offering customers the chance to opt out. Ring's current privacy policy states that although the company does not sell user data to third-party companies, it shares data with third-party analytics teams—which is not more comforting from an end user's point of view. You can opt out of sharing by visiting the Control Center on your Ring account's profile and adjusting your data collection preferences.

Ring recently came under fire after handing over customers' video recordings to law enforcement without consent 11 times in 2022. Per the vendor’s policy, Ring requires law enforcement to present a search warrant to obtain data from a user’s camera without permission. However, Ring can also share data with the police for emergency cases “involving imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to any person.” 


It's Not Just Ring Products

You don't have to use Ring-branded video doorbells. There are other options, but they have similar policies, especially when complying with law enforcement requests. Smart doorbell company Arlo states in its privacy policy: “We won’t share your videos or account information with law enforcement unless there’s a legally enforceable search warrant or court order, and we never share your videos for private litigation matters without your consent.”

Google’s Nest doorbell’s privacy policy mentions various circumstances in which the company will share your personal information, including investigations of terms of service violations. 


How to Stop Your Ring from Recording

Unless you subscribe to Ring Protect, your Ring doorbell does not record or store your videos, making it a relatively secure home surveillance option. You and any other shared users can view the device's live video stream, but no Ring employees can view your live stream without your consent.

Ring Protect allows you to store your videos in the cloud. You can download the videos from Ring's web portal or the Ring app and share them online. In the interest of promoting online security, I do not recommend sharing videos of the inside or outside of your home with strangers on social media

Here are three ways to gain some control over the recordings created by your Ring device using Ring Protect:

1. Create Privacy Zones 

A privacy zone is an off-limits area within your Ring device camera's field of view. You draw the area on the app's screen view, and the camera will not record video within those parameters.

The Ring app won't display anything in that area in Live View, and video in that area won't be recorded. You can create up to two privacy zones per account. 

2. Disable Recordings Triggered by Motion Detection

Ring detects motion and begins recording and storing video and audio. It's easy to modify this feature by following these steps:

1. Open your Ring app and the three lines at the top left.

2. Tap Devices.

3. Tap the Ring device you want to modify.

4. Toggle Motion Detection off.

3. Disable Audio and Video Recording

You can disable the audio streaming and recording on your Ring device.  

1. Open the Ring app and tap three lines at the top left.

2. Tap Devices.

3. Select your device.

4. Choose Device Settings.

5. Tap Privacy Settings.

6. Tap the Audio Streaming and Recording toggle.

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PCMag wants to hear from you! We are looking for participants in the 2022 PCMag Readers' Choice Survey for home security systems, security cameras, video doorbells, and smart locks. The survey takes about three minutes to complete, and you can enter the sweepstakes to win a $100 Amazon gift card.

Need to brush up on the pros and cons? Check out our picks for the best smart home security systems for 2022. If you're still in the beginning phases of your smart home journey, read PCMag's guide to setting up a smart home.

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