Thursday, September 28, 2023

Google, like Amazon, shows the police your video without a search warrant

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Arlo, Apple, Wyze and Anker, owner of Eufy, all confirmed to CNET that they don’t give authorities access to your smart home camera footage unless they get a warrant or court order. If you’re wondering why they specify that, it’s because we’ve now learned that Google and Amazon do the exact opposite: they let the police get this data without a search warrant if the police claim there has been an emergency.

Earlier this month, my colleague Sean Hollister wrote about how Amazon, the company behind smart doorbells and security systems, will indeed give police unauthorized access to customer images in those “emergencies.” and if CNET points out now, Google’s privacy policy has a similar exclusion to Amazon’s, meaning law enforcement can access data from its Nest products — or, in theory, any other data you store with Google — without a warrant.

Google and Amazon’s US Information Request Policy says that in most In some cases, authorities will have to produce a warrant, subpoena or similar court order before handing over data. So much is true for AppleArlo, Anchor and Wyze also – they would be breaking the law if they didn’t. Unlike those companies, Google and Amazon will make exceptions if a law enforcement officer makes an emergency data request.

Earlier this month, Amazon announced that it had already fulfilled 11 such requests this year. Google’s transparency report does not appear to have specific information about emergency requests, and the company did not immediately respond The edge‘s request for comment on how much it has been fulfilled.

Here’s what the Google information request policy has to say about “emergency information requests:”

If we reasonably believe we can prevent someone from dying or sustaining serious bodily harm, we may provide information to a government agency, for example in the case of bomb threats, school shootings, kidnappings, suicide prevention, and missing persons. We continue to consider these requests in light of applicable law and our policies

An unnamed Nest spokesperson has told CNET that the company is trying to notify its users when it provides their data under these circumstances (though it says that in an emergency, that notification can’t come unless Google hears that “the emergency is over”). Amazon, on the other hand, also refused to tell The edge or CNET whether it would even let its users know that it gave the police access to their videos.

Legally, a company is allowed to share this kind of data with the police if it thinks there is an emergency, but the laws we’ve seen don’t force companies to share. Perhaps that is why Arlo opposes the practices of Amazon and Google and suggests that the police should get a warrant if the situation is truly an emergency.

“If a situation is urgent enough for law enforcement officers to request a search of Arlo’s property, then this situation should also be urgent enough for law enforcement officers or a district attorney to request an immediate hearing from a judge instead for the trial.” issuing an order to serve immediately. on Arlo,” the company told CNET. Amazon told CNET that it declines some emergency requests “when we believe law enforcement can quickly get and serve us such a request.”

Apple’s Eufy and Anker, meanwhile, claim that even they can’t access users’ video, thanks to the fact that their systems use end-to-end encryption by default. Despite all the partnerships Ring has with the police, you can enable end-to-end encryption for some of its products, although there are many caveats. First off, the feature doesn’t work with its battery-powered cameras, which, you know, are just about the thing everyone thinks of when they think of Ring. It’s also not enabled by default, and you must specify some functions to use it, such as using Alexa greetings or watching Ring videos on your computer. Google, meanwhile, doesn’t offer end-to-end encryption on its Nest Cams we checked last.

It’s worth noting the obvious: Arlo, Apple, Wyze, and Eufy’s policies regarding emergency law enforcement requests don’t necessarily mean these companies protect your data in any other way. Last year, Anker apologized after hundreds of Eufy customers exposed their cameras to strangers, and recently it came to light that Wyze had failed to warn its customers about gaping security flaws in some of its cameras it was aware of. for years. And while Apple may not have a way to share your HomeKit Secure Video footage, it does comply with other emergency data requests from law enforcement — as evidenced by reports that it, and other companies like Meta, have shared customer information with hackers working in fake emergencies sent requests.

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