Is Big Brother on our doorsteps?
Amazon.com’s Ring video doorbells, Google’s Nest Hello and other connected security cameras are the fastest-growing home improvement gadgets since garage door openers. These cameras, often built into buzzers, alert your phone when someone is at your door and save footage online. Mine has helped me get deliveries and catch porch pirates stealing packages.
We’re on a slippery slope. You’ve got a legal right to film in public places, including your entryway. There’s little agreement about whether private cameras slash crime rates, yet police are setting up voluntary registries for private cameras in dozens of communities. Cities such as Washington, D.C., have begun paying up to $500 for cameras on private property. Detroit is going further: Its mayor wants to mandate security cameras at businesses open late, with a live feed going straight to police.
Meanwhile, Ring’s owner Amazon.com filed an eerily specific patent to put its controversial Rekognition facial-identification software into doorbells. The purpose: to automatically flag “suspicious” people. (Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post, but I review all tech with the same critical eye.)
I’m worried the giant tech companies, who don’t have a stellar record of protecting us, aren’t being very specific about getting the balance right. Ring says that facial recognition patent “certainly does not imply implementation,” but it also wouldn’t draw lines in the sand about what…