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Stop video doorbells from listening
© Andrey Popov |
Security & privacy

Is your video doorbell picking up private conversations? Here’s how to tell

Technology has allowed us to move from the traditional two-tone doorbell to something far more complex. A staple of Hollywood sci-fi films, video doorbells first appeared for commercial use around 2013.

The nifty gadgets let you see who is at the front door without getting off the couch, and you can even talk to whoever visits. As with much technology, there is a dark side that most people don’t know about.

Read on to see how video doorbells can unintentionally record private conversations and what you can do about it.

Here’s the backstory

Having video baked into your doorbell is super convenient, as you can quickly take a glance at your mobile device to see who is at the door. In addition, if there is a two-way microphone speaker, you can also talk to the visitor.

But few people realize that the doorbell can record everything you do or say. And that isn’t just your doorbell, but also that of your neighbor. If you happen to talk ill of them (for example, complain to a friend about their barking dog) while walking by, their doorbell might record your conversation.

The recording capabilities vary between models and brands, but Consumer Reports launched an investigation into what people can hear and from how far away. According to the report, the Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus captures clear audio from up to 18 feet. An Arlo Ultra security camera can record identifiable speech from 30 feet away.

The distances might not seem that great, but consider that many houses or apartments connect to the sidewalk in only a few steps. But how can you tell if someone’s doorbell is recording you? The short answer is that you’ll never really know.

However, a small red LED light illuminates when the function activates on some Ring devices.

What you can do about it

Recording audio or video at your home when you set it up isn’t as scary as someone else recording your conversations. But while you can’t control how others set up their device, you can regulate what your video doorbell records.

If you didn’t change any settings on your Ring device, it automatically records video and audio as soon as it detects motion. It continues for two minutes or until it no longer detects motion. To stop the Ring from recording audio:

  • Open up your Ring app.
  • Tap the three lines on the top left.
  • Tap Devices.
  • Select the device you would like to adjust.
  • Tap Device Settings.
  • Tap Privacy Settings.
  • Then finally, tap the Audio Streaming and Recording toggle.

Wired Ring devices also allow you to adjust the video recording length from 50 seconds to 120 seconds (which is the default). When you are in Device Settings of the app, tap on Video Settings and then Video Recording Length.

If you have a Ring Protect subscription plan, the recordings are viewable for up to 60 days through the app. You can also save or share them with the neighborhood group.

Keep reading

Here’s what Amazon knows about you when you use a Ring doorbell

You can stop police from asking for your Ring doorbell videos – here’s how

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