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Ring's Neighbors app is revealing device locations, report says

Gizmodo says it found geographic coordinates hidden in posts on the app that can be traced to home addresses.

Ring's Neighbors app could allow people to pin down device locations, Gizmodo says.
Chris Monroe/CNET

Data found on Ring's Neighbors app can reveal the exact location of the company's devices -- and, by extent, users' homes, according to a Monday report. Neighbors, a free app from the smart doorbell company, allows users to post and comment on crime and security information in their communities. Ring pitches it as "the new neighborhood watch," and many posts include clips captured by Ring video doorbells and security cameras

In its report, Gizmodo said it collected data over the last month linked to around 65,800 posts on the Neighbors app and found "hidden geographic coordinates that are connected to each post." That includes latitude and longitude with the precision of up to six decimal points, the report says. 

The findings reflect the mounting privacy concerns surrounding the home surveillance company. Ring, which was purchased by Amazon last year for a reported $1 billion, has faced scrutiny for helping police build a surveillance network with its smart doorbells. Police departments that partnered with Ring had access for more than a year to a map outlining where the video doorbells were installed. That feature was removed in July.

Gizmodo said it didn't detail its methods in order to protect people's privacy, but was able to map the locations of tens of thousands of Ring cameras across 15 cities. The maps only reveal Ring camera users who have agreed to share footage through the Neighbors app and who have shared footage via the app in the last 500 days, according to the report. 

A Ring representative told CNET the company has "taken measures to help secure Ring devices from unauthorized access," which include blocking the installation of third-party apps on the device and encrypting communication between Ring devices and Ring servers.

"Posts to the Neighbors app do not reveal the exact addresses of users or Ring devices owners," the representative said. "When choosing to post to the app, users include the incident location, which is not always the same location as their address. These public posts are then displayed as happening at a nearby intersection close to the vicinity of the incident to protect user privacy."

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