Ring has endured its share of headaches over the past year, with most of its woes stemming from news about its cameras being hacked. But after an exhaustive effort to repair confidence, the company has become more receptive to criticism and is promising new efforts to combat privacy concerns.
To that end, Ring has announced an Indoor Cam Cover for its Indoor Cam. Given all the concerns regarding privacy, it’s the first step in staving off hackers who might want a peek into what’s going on inside your home. However, it’s only a short term solution to a long term problem.
The Indoor Cam Cover requires manual operation
Ring users will start receiving emails for a promo code for the Indoor Cam Cover starting on March 11, and those who own the Ring Indoor Cam will have the option of getting it for free in the coming weeks. It’s been confirmed by Ring, though, that it’ll be bundled alongside the Indoor Cam in the future.
There’s nothing terribly ornate about the privacy shutter. It fastens to the base of the Ring Indoor Cam. If you wish to cover up the camera, you just need to swivel the privacy shutter around.
Simple? Absolutely. Effective? Only kinda. This isn’t the ideal implementation.
Sure, the camera’s view is masked, preventing anyone from seeing what’s going on. Yet it won’t stop a possible hacker from listening in through the microphone in the camera. It’s a crude solution that requires constant management because it’s manually operated. If you forget the cover and leave it open all day, only to realize your mistake later, then the shutter didn’t truly work the way you needed.
Security needs to be core to design
Ring certainly seems receptive to addressing concerns. The company made two-factor authentication mandatory last month, an improvement that came after the launch of its new Control Center portal within the company’s mobile app.
That’s an effective measure, and the new shutter is another step in the right direction. However, these solutions don’t fix the broader problem. Greg Hanis of Viperline Solutions, a security expert I spoke with for a recent interview, questioned whether the companies making security cameras are taking privacy seriously.
“I’m 100% sure that when they go to develop these products and whatnot, they don’t do that. They don’t think about all the what-ifs,” said Hanis. “And that’s why we’re going to have these problems, and we’re still going to have these problems.”
Ring’s recent actions are only a response. It’s better than nothing, but it doesn’t fundamentally rethink the design of Ring’s product. Ring isn’t alone. Just look at the current lineup of security cameras on the market. Very few offer a privacy shutter.
In another recent interview, SimpliSafe’s Senior Engineering Manager, Darrell Holigan, told me that adding a mechanical shutter to the SimpliCam cost the company just one dollar.
That’s not a lot, but that adds up when a company plans to sell millions of units. Ring, Nest, and others originally bet that consumers wouldn’t care enough to pay slightly more.
Ring’s decision to build a shutter suggests the company’s calculations are changing. However, I’ve yet to see signs the company plans to re-think its camera design from scratch.
Adapting for the next generation
For now, the Indoor Cam Cover serves its purpose. It gives Ring owners an easy way to protect their privacy.
However, if Ring wants to instill confidence among its users, the company will need to go back to the drawing board and design products that take privacy and security seriously from the start.
Ring’s next generation of cameras will need to reflect that new devotion. Implementing a mechanical shutter similar to SimpliSafe’s implementation would be wonderful, not only because it can be programmed to remain closed when someone is home, but also for the audible tone of the shutter opening or closing informs whoever is there that someone has accessed the camera remotely. Best of all, you can open or close the shutter remotely.
This is just one example of what Ring can deliver from a hardware standpoint. New security features may be expensive to develop, but that added cost seems worthwhile if it means Ring can avoid the fallout of future hacks.
Correction: An earlier version of this article started that it was unknown if a bundle was going to be made available for the Indoor Cam and Indoor Cam Cover. Ring is planning to offer it to customers in the near future.
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