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The Privacy Loophole in Your Doorbell

The week of Thanksgiving, Michael Larkin, in Hamilton, Ohio, answered a phone call. It was the local police, and they wanted footage from Larkin’s front door camera. Larkin had a Ring video doorbell, one of the more than 10 million Americans with the product installed at their front doors. The police said they were conducting a drug-related investigation on a neighbor, and they wanted videos of “suspicious activity” around his home. Larkin cooperated, and sent clips of a car that drove by his Ring camera more than 12 times in the requested time frame. He thought that was all the police would need. Instead, it was just the beginning.

A week later, Larkin received a notice from Ring itself: The company had received a warrant, signed by a local judge. The notice informed him it was obligated to send footage from more than 20 cameras—whether or not Larkin was willing to share it himself.

After sending the initial footage, Larkin started to find the police demands onerous. Larkin said, “He asked for all the footage from October 25.” Larkin said that he has five cameras surrounding his house. He also has three cameras inside his house, as well as 13 cameras inside the store that he owns, which is nowhere near his home. All these cameras are connected to his Ring account. He declined that request. He says his main concern at first was practical: Each clip would take up to a minute to download and send over.

Then he received an email from Ring, notifying him that his account was the subject of a warrant from the police department. This time, Larkin wasn’t able to choose which cameras he could send videos from. The warrant included all five of his outdoor cameras, and also added a sixth camera that was inside his house. It would include footage recorded from cameras he had in his living room and bedroom, as well as the 13 cameras he had installed at his store associated with his account.

Larkin, now incensed that police were requesting footage from inside his home for an investigation that didn’t even involve him. He said, “That’s the thing that upsets me the most—the fact that a judge just signed off on that. He’s just going to hand over footage of mine, and the case doesn’t even involve me in any way, shape, or form.”

Possible Preaching Angles:

1) Government; Crime - The footage on Ring’s servers amounts to a large and unregulated web of eyes on American communities. This can provide law enforcement valuable information in the event of a crime, but also create a 24/7 ever-expanding web of surveillance operation that even the owners of the cameras aren’t fully aware they’ve helped to build. 2) Omniscience of God; Judgment Day - “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:13).

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