Ring (formerly doorbot) is a company from Los Angeles that makes a doorbell replacement equipped with a video camera. Connected via the Internet to an app, home owners can always see who's at the door when the doorbell rings.
The entrepreneur, Jamie Siminoff, said that doorbot only sold direct with $250,000 in sales in the last month before the episode aired alone. The product had been on the market for nine months and, in that time, had grossed $1,000,000 in sales.
doorbot inked a deal with Staples to sell through their stores in the near future.
The only shark to offer was Mr. Wonderful, but the offer was considered unacceptable and the company left the tank without a deal.
This deal aired on Episode 5.09.
Show & Company Updates
In episode 9.10, viewers of Shark Tank were given an update.
Though doorbot left the tank without a deal, the company continued and made $3,000,000 in sales over the next year. The company then rebranded as "Ring".
Though not through the show, Ring acquired Sir Richard Branson as an investor who bought into the company for 5% of equity, describing his belief that the company could be worth $5,000,000,000 although the company was currently valued at one-fifth of that (or even less).
As of the update, Ring had ten core products and employed 1,300 people.
Ring also inked deals with Home Depot, Target, and Best Buy and is now sold in over 16,000 stores.
In February 2018, separate from the aired update, it was announced that Amazon had purchased Ring for $1,000,000,000. According to CNBC, the purchases was made through the Alexa Fund, an investment fund started by Amazon to invest in companies that will make new products and features centered around Amazon's home assistant.
Ring Privacy Controversy
Since being acquired by Amazon, Ring has attracted a fair amount of controversy regarding its data practices and its relationship with police departments.
In July of 2019 Ars Technica reported that not only must police departments that it partners with in order to retrieve footage from their product must market the Ring device on social media and elsewhere but that they must stick to Ring produced scripts. Additionally:
Ring also demands police departments in partnerships with it give the company final review on all its statements about Ring products, Gizmodo reports. That arrangement led to the city of Boca Raton, Florida waiting three weeks to announce a Ring partnership already in progress.
Gizmodo also obtained copies of the "press packets" Ring issues to law enforcement partners, which include template social media posts for Facebook, Twitter, and Next-door; template press releases; sets of key talking points to stick to; and scripted answers to frequently asked questions.
Just a month later, Ars Technical further reported that police may access Ring footage without a warrant if a customer agrees to it (and may be able to obtain footage even without customer approval). The Fresno County Sheriff in California was quoted as saying:
The Fresno County (California) Sheriff's Office told Government Technology that, while most users "play ball," for the ones who don't, "If we ask within 60 days of the recording and as long as it’s been uploaded to the cloud, then Ring can take it out of the cloud and send it to us legally so that we can use it as part of our investigation."
Amazon, the company that purchased Ring for $1,000,000,000 issued a statement denying that this was true. However, later in the same month, Ars Technica posted an additional story about Ring requesting that partnering police departments not describe the backend tools that Ring makes available to them. The company was alleged to have edited a press release from the town of Ewing, New Jersey, to remove the words "surveillance" or "security cameras". These edits appear to go hand-in-hand with a general level of secrecy regarding the tools and information that police have access to that the customer may-or-may-not know about.
Ring device owners are often unclear on what information, specifically, police can see and how they can use it. That secrecy is entirely by design, CNET reports today, as Ring has a list of features its police partners are explicitly not supposed to share with the public.
Documents security researcher Shreyas Gandlur obtained through a FOIA request include a communication from Ring to police in Bensenville, Illinois, saying that "Neighbors Portal back-end features should not be shared with the public, including the law enforcement portal on desktop view, the heat map, sample video request emails, or the video request process itself as they often contain sensitive investigative information."
CNET rounded up all of the information it could gather on those features from a combination of its own and others' previous reporting, FOIA requests, and interviews with police. Among the features CNET describes in detail is the process through which police can request footage from local Ring users.
For example, as part of an investigation into an auto theft, Bensenville police on July 11 sent a request for footage in a specific neighborhood taken in a 10-hour window between 8:00pm on July 9 and 6:00am on July 10. Users who received the request were presented with a big blue button reading, "Share your Ring videos now" or a smaller text option beneath to "check your Ring videos before sharing."
Users who decline to share footage through the app may have police showing up at their door asking them to share in person if online requests don't work out. Law enforcement can also go to Amazon directly with a valid legal demand and bypass the user's consent to access the footage entirely.
Following these reports, Ars Technica continued its reporting and in September of 2019 revealed that California Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin is the wife of Jon Irwin, the chief operating officer at Ring, and that she has been a "key voice and vote backing motions that would weaken the [California Consumer Privacy Act]."
One proposal put forth by Assemblywoman Irwin would expand what kind of data would be exempt from CCPA provisions, and this drew the ire of consumer protection groups, Politico reports. Irwin also initially proposed striking out "a provision requiring companies to disclose or delete data associated with 'households' upon request," a regulation that will likely affect companies like Ring.
In late November of 2019, Ring was once again the subject of an article in Ars Technica. This time it was over their response to Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass) about "[t]he nature of Ring's products and its partnerships with police departments raise serious privacy and civil liberties concerns[.]"
"Although Amazon markets Ring as America’s ‘new neighborhood watch,’ the technology captures and stores video from millions of households and sweeps up footage of countless bystanders who may be unaware that they are being filmed," Markey said in a statement. "I am particularly alarmed to learn that Ring is pursuing facial-recognition technology with the potential to flag certain individuals as suspicious based on their biometric information."
Ring responded that, essentially, any privacy violations that may occur are the fault of the user:
"Ring's Terms of Service state that users are responsible for their use of our products and services, including use in accordance with any applicable privacy laws," the company said in response to a question about cameras pointed at public space such as municipal sidewalks that aren't part of a homeowner's property. "Ring includes a door/window sticker in the box with each device that is equipped with audiovisual recording capabilities" so that homeowners can prominently notify anyone in the neighborhood that they may be recorded, Amazon added. It has no oversight or compliance program in place for owners, however.
Even NPR appears to be asking the question of whether the videos that "smart" doorbells like Ring creates are a good thing. On December 2, 2019, NPR aired a story asking whether the videos these doorbells create should even be shared.
On February 4th, 2020, Ars Technica published another story about Ring. This time, it's about a change that Ring made to their system to allow users to opt out of video requests by police departments as well as the ability to see where Ring has made agreements for data sharing with local departments. However, some of the data that Ring used to share is a little on the surprising side including:
The company used to share maps of local cameras with police, as well as data "about the number of times residents had refused police access to their cameras or ignored their requests altogether." (Ring in late August 2019 said it no longer provides that information to its police partners.)
[..] A report from December found that footage uploaded to the Neighbors app was sharing geographic information detailed enough to pinpoint a camera location to the square inch. Reporters were able to grab precise locations of 20,000 Ring cameras in nine-square-mile zones of 15 different US cities to put together their own heat map. They also spoke with a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has used several years' worth of video posted to Neighbors to pinpoint the locations of about 440,000 Ring cameras.
Ring has also been a subject discussed on The Cyberlaw Podcast.
On the December 16th, 2019 episode, much was made about how Ring doesn't offer the basic levels of IoT security that almost all other Amazon products contain.
On the February 4th, 2020 episode, it was discussed how the recording of videos and sound might violate state statutes against wiretapping in states that require "two-party consent" to any recordings of conversations.
Given the ongoing news about Ring and its technology, this space will be updated with any new articles or media in which they feature.
- CNBC: Amazon buys smart doorbell maker Ring for a reported $1 billion
- CNBC: Amazon is buying Ring, a business that was once rejected on 'Shark Tank'
- People: Shark Tank Entrepreneur Returns to the Show as a Shark in New Season: 'Look Who's Back'
- Ars Technica: Amazon writes scripts for cops to sling Ring home cameras, report says
- Ars Technica: Police can get your Ring doorbell footage without a warrant, report says
- Ars Technica: Ring asks police not to tell public how its law enforcement backend works
- Ars Technica: Spouse of Ring exec among lawmakers trying to weaken Calif. privacy law
- Ars Technica: Ring asks police not to tell public how its law enforcement backend works
- Amazon Ring now lets users opt out of receiving police video requests
- The Cyberlaw Podcast: Around the World in 80 Hacks
- Digital Media Law Project - Recording Phone Calls and Conversations
- The Cyberlaw Podcast: Bill Barr as Bogeyman