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Your Cop-Friendly Spy Device Could Burst Into Flames

Illustration for article titled Your Cop-Friendly Spy Device Could Burst Into Flames
Screenshot: Ring/YouTube

Another argument for throwing your Ring doorbell into a cement mixer: It might catch your house on fire.

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After receiving 85 reports of doorbells catching fire, Ring has issued a recall of some second-generation Ring doorbells (the one with the blue ring). The announcement on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s site claims that smoldering doorbells have caused only “minor property damage.”

Other reasons for dispensing of Ring doorbells revolve more around your personal comfort level with contributing to encroaching police surveillance in America.

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Ring offers scant additional details in the recall but explains that the doorbell batteries might overheat if you’ve used the wrong screws to install the device. Per the CPSC’s site, Ring estimates that this affects about 358,000 devices sold in the U.S. and Canada between June and October 2020. You can enter the serial number at this website to see if your device is vulnerable.

“The safety of our customers is our top priority,” a Ring spokesperson told Gizmodo. “We have and continue to work cooperatively with the CPSC on this issue, and have contacted customers who purchased a Ring Video Doorbell (2nd Gen) to ensure they received the updated user manual and follow the device installation instructions. Customers do not need to return their devices.”

Ring has lived up to the terrifying potential of wifi-enabled home video peepholes. Aside from enabling police to amass video from willing residents, with zero assurance that they won’t share the footage or keep it indefinitely for use unrelated to an immediate crime, they’ve also been used to surveil users. The Electronic Frontier Foundation found in January that the Android app was full of trackers that haunt your device and feed your personal information to Facebook, even if you didn’t have a Facebook account. (Ring said in an email that it now gives users the ability to opt-out of such tracking on its apps and website.) Gizmodo found late last year that it was possible to triangulate the locations of users who post Ring videos to its social media app, Neighbors. And then you have to trust that employees won’t peep your footage.

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If the doorbell hasn’t self-immolated, you can fix all your Ring problems by 1) dismounting the doorbell, 2) removing the battery, and 3) uninstalling the app. That’s it.

Staff reporter, Gizmodo. wkimball @ gizmodo

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DISCUSSION

Got any suggestions for alternative devices that allow you better control over your data? (Such as having the ability to not let the manufacturer or its partners possess your data in the first place, or at the very least using true end-to-end encryption?)

Or is that more Lifehacker’s deal?