Cnet has a report on how police departments are being inundated with false alarms from Amazon Ring alerts because people have freaked out over the camera footage of innocent activities. In one case someone called to report footage of themselves walking into the door!
I’m reminded of a case that happened nearby just a month ago. In Manhattan Beach (near Los Angeles), police from five cities — and an LA Sheriff’s helicopter — descended on a neighborhood because someone panicked over Ring footage of a food delivery sent to the wrong address. It took them an hour and a half to confirm that there was no crime in progress.
The story basically filled a bingo card:
- IoT doorbell camera (and of course it was Ring)
- Gig/app delivery service
- Upscale neighborhood
- Paranoid reaction to, you know, people
- NextDoor posts quoted in article (because of course they are)
- Massive police over-response
- SMS alerts sent to neighboring cities
It was absurd. Fortunately no one was hurt or arrested, so it remains an absurdity, but between the waste of resources, the increase in fear, and the risk that something could have gone wrong, it fits right in with these other cautionary tales. As Fight for the Future puts it:
Ubiquitous, privately owned surveillance camera networks are NOT going to make our neighborhoods safer. They just make us all paranoid. Soon we’ll be snitching on our neighbors Red Scare style. Enough
I’ve seen my share of angry complaints about spam with forged sender addresses, but this is amazing: Aunty Spam’s Slam a Spammer Blog is reporting that Sunnyvale resident Charles Booher called up the “sender” of some spam and threatened him with torture and death.
Of course, (a) death threats are criminal, and (b) the callee was not the actual sender but a third party whose address had been forged. Booher is now facing criminal charges with up to five years of prison and a quarter-million dollars in fines.
“Aunty Spam” didn’t provide any further information, but a quick Google search turned up articles suggesting this isn’t the entire story. Mercury News reports [archive.org] that the person Booher threatened, Douglas Mackay, worked at a call center that handled calls for, among other companies, the one that did send the spam. Metroactive reports on an even closer connection: it seems that the spamming corporation was registered to Mackay’s brother. A DOJ press release is (appropriately) matter-of-fact about the allegations. This all went down last November. In my brief search I haven’t found anything about the current status of the case.
Back on the subject of forgery, the SPF website has gotten a major facelift. SPF, or Sender Policy Framework, is a scheme that lets domain name owners identify which servers they use to send mail, so that receiving servers can pre-screen incoming mail for forgeries. Aside from cutting down on phishing attacks, at least with SPF there’s a better chance you’ll be complaining to the right person!