Ring risks burning months of public trust with home surveillance drone

The news: Amazon unveiled a RingMark Home surveillance drone and a roaming robot on the ground.

  • Ring’s Still Home Camera (essentially a Ring camera attached to a small drone) flies along predetermined paths in users’ homes or those triggered by alarms, and allows users to view streaming or recorded video to remotely monitor their homes.
  • The $ 249 drone is limited to only five minutes of flight time and, for privacy reasons, cannot be controlled remotely by its user.
  • Amazon’s new roaming robot Astro connects to Ring using cameras in its Echo smart displays to monitor rooms when a user is away.
  • While both devices are ready to stream, they’re currently limited to invite-only access.

How we got here: Ring’s drone has faced skepticism from consumer privacy advocates since its first announcement over a year ago.

  • This backlash was compounded by Ring less that stellar history with the user privacy, security and confidence.

The overview: Although companies like Sunflower Labs, Nightingale, and Azure have been offering their own surveillance drones for years, the market for affordable small, autonomous indoor drones remains opaque.

  • By limiting the availability of the drone, Amazon can gauge consumer appetites before deciding whether or not to add it to its list of failed products.

But interest in drones outside of surveillance and security is growing in the United States:

  • We forecast this delivery drone units will increase by 76% from 23,900 units in 2021 to 69,610 in 2023.

How this could backfire on you: Amazon, and Ring in particular, risk jeopardizing recent efforts to soften their image and regain user trust by dubbing some of its more controversial products.

Responding to a litany of privacy and security complaints, Ring has spent much of this year trying to fix the ship by adding and expansion its end-to-end encryption for video streams and adding transparency on how law enforcement requests data.

Although public confidence in big tech companies has fall in all areas in recent years, a recent survey from YouGov and the Center for Growth and Opportunity shows that customers are relatively more comfortable sharing personal information with Amazon than its other competitors.

Unauthorized access to a home security device or a data leak containing sensitive images captured inside a user’s home could end up hurting Amazon’s comparative trust advantage.

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